The Braves shipped up to Boston and managed to get swept out of town in a four game home-and-home series. After getting blanked on Wednesday at Fenway, the Braves took the field against Jake Peavy looking to snap their losing streak. Entering play only a half-game up on the idle Marlins, the Braves countered with Mike Minor on the hill.
Minor was sharp in the early innings. Apart from a Xander Bogaerts double in the first, Minor worked ahead of hitters and stayed out of trouble. The Braves’ bats stayed quiet until Jason Heyward crushed a belt-high pitch deep to right field in the top of the third to make it 1-0. The Braves added a run in the fourth after a Freddie Freeman walk, a Jake Peavy balk (with the assist from Bob Davidson, of course), and a solid single by Evan Gattis.
The Red Sox broke through in the fifth to make the game 2-1 on Green Monster Doubles from former Brave David Ross and Brock Holt. Minor would exit the game after seven solid innings and 113 pitches, surrendering one earned run, striking out three and walking no one.
The Braves added to their lead in the eighth thanks to a booming double by The Offense off Peavy which scored B.J. Upton. In the bottom half, things fell apart. Quickly. With Minor out of the game, Holt lead off the inning against David Carpenter with a single and went to second on a poor defensive play by Justin Upton. Bogaerts followed with a sharp single to right, tightening the game to 3-2 before an out was recorded. In the next at-bat, Dustin Pedroia grounded a ball up the middle which was booted Tommy La Stella. It appeared La Stella wasn’t sure if Simmons would field the ball, and just collapsed in a heap on top of the baseball. Following a mound visit by McDowell, A.J. Pierzynski singled up the middle and the ball was promptly booted by B.J. Upton. Tie game. You’re killing me, Smalls.
After getting a strikeout of Jonny Gomes, Carpenter was pulled for Luis Avilan who retired Grady Sizemore with a strong off-speed pitch. Avilan was taken down after intentionally walking David Ortiz, and Kimbrel came in for the eighth (!). Dogs and cats. Living together. Mass hysteria. Actually, Kimbrel retired David Ross, and the game proceeded to the ninth deadlocked at 3-3.
Unable to take the lead in the top of the ninth, Kimbrel climbed the hill again. Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Holt lead off the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back walks. The game ended without an out being recorded. Bogaerts drove a sharp ball to the left side and Johnson made a terrific stop, but what happened next was the ball game. Johnson fed the ball to La Stella at second in an attempt to turn two, and although the ball looked catchable, it kicked off La Stella’s glove away from the bag allowing Bradley to score. Walk-off defensive failure. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Kimbrel in the eighth ever again.
Overall, the series played out like a mixtape of the worst parts of the 2014 Atlanta Braves: stranded runners, lackadaisical defense, the inability to hold a lead, and inconsistent middle relief. Throw in a Santana Episode (see: Glossary), and the Braves were swept out of town by a last place team coming off a ten game losing streak. With Atlanta blowing leads in three of the four games, the series was full of missed opportunities. The Braves will enter the weekend series against the Marlins tied with the Fish atop the NL East.
To end the post on a positive note, Justin Upton had a terrific series and extended his hitting streak to twelve games. He needs some help though. Now go back to pretending the American League doesn’t exist.