Three Cuts: Hard-luck Braves blow late lead, fall to Padres in 11 innings
ATLANTA -- Here are a few things we gleaned from the Braves' 6-4 loss to the San Diego Padres on Thursday afternoon -- a come-from-ahead defeat which robbed Atlanta of hitting .500 for the season:
Things looked good for the Braves heading into the top of the eighth inning. They were squatting on a 4-1 lead and pitcher Julio Teheran (seven strikeouts vs. San Diego) seemingly had the chops to go the distance in the series finale.
And then things went south -- in a hurry.
In the 8th, Alexi Amarista and Yangervis Solarte led off with singles, and then Wil Myers (back from the disabled list) walked to fill the bases -- serving as Teheran's last batter.
With Dana Eveland in relief (Braves debut), a passed ball -- charged to catcher Christian Bethancourt -- allowed one San Diego runner to come home. Two hitters and two relievers later, Luis Avilan's bases-loaded walk to Yonder Alonso trimmed the lead to one.
On the surface, it didn't seem like the worst strategy in the world, since Alonso typically represents a hitting upgrade over catcher Derek Norris and second baseman Cory Spangenberg on deck. In fact, Norris fanned for the second out ... setting the stage for one last crucial matchup:
Spangenberg vs. Braves reliever David Aardsma.
With the bases loaded, Spangenberg connected on a lazy, seemingly harmless foul ball down the left side. But on the swing, he also came into contact with Bethancourt's glove -- resulting in a catcher's interference call, allowing Myers to score the game-tying run.
Put it all together ... and a passed ball, bases-loaded walk and catcher's interference were directly responsible for San Diego's three runs in the 8th.
"That was a weird eighth inning," said Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez. "(The Padres) scored three runs without putting the ball in play."
Freddie Freeman tallied one run, one homer, two RBI and three hits on Thursday, wreaking havoc on nearly every at-bat. But aside from those heroics, you rarely got the sense Atlanta would pull out the late victory -- on Getaway Day.
Oh sure, the Braves had their chances in the 10th, after a Freeman double and Nick Markakis walk (intentional) placed two runners on base with one out. But Juan Uribe's shallow flyout to right field and Todd Cunningham's groundout quickly dissipated that rally.
Even during that stretch, the diminishing crowd at Turner Field had lost a lot of pep from the earlier innings -- partially due to the deflating 8th and the sudden dearth of matinee-outing children's groups, many of whom left the stadium to get home before dinner.
Which brings us to the 11th: The Padres (31-31) quickly put runners on first and second, but that rally had been diluted by a poor sacrifice bunt from former Braves outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr.
No runners advanced on the play, putting the advantage back in Atlanta's favor.
But back-to-back singles had the Padres back in charge -- with the latter hit bringing home Spangengberg and Upton.
In the bottom frame, former Braves closer Craig Kimbrel (two saves this series) left no doubt of a Padres victory, making quick work of Andrelton Simmons, Bethancourt (strikeout) and pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes (strikeout).
In the 7th, with Atlanta leading just 2-1, the Braves got a major break when Jace Peterson's infield single helped Simmons score from 3rd.
Why so lucky?
On Peterson's swing, he double-hit the ball before leaving the batter's box -- a non-reviewable call (instant replay) that somehow eluded the four umpires surrounding the infield.
Peterson's "hit" didn't escape the eyes of Padres manager Bud Black ... but his dispute with the umps only led to a game dismissal -- and not an overturning of the original call.
"No question" it was a double hit, conceded Gonzalez to the media. "We got away with one there."
This is how it goes with teams that flirt with .500 for long stretches:
**Winning and losing streaks are both plentiful and minimal.
**The work of the starting pitching and relievers seldom run in concert.
**The high-end production involving the pitchers and hitters rarely click at the same time.
Put it all together, and it's no wonder the Braves are virtually at the same point after 20 games (10-10) ... after 40 games (20-20) ... and after 60 games (29-31, 3rd in National League East).
The only major shocker: Teheran (seasonal ERA: 4.78) still has an unblemished record at home (3-0) ... and yet, he's been marginal, at best, as the Braves' workhorse ace (a spot currently occupied by Shelby Miller).
Regarding Thursday, Gonzalez said Teheran (four runs, four hits, three walks allowed over seven innings) didn't run out of gas.
Teheran "just got himself in trouble (during the 8th) for the third start in a row," said Gonzalez -- dating back to the 24-year-old's bad outing against the Dodgers on May 26 (eight runs allowed).