This was a game where not a whole lot happened over the course of the first seven innings, then suddenly all sorts of craziness broke out.
The first seven innings were a pitcher’s duel, and one of the best we’ve seen all year. Charlie Morton held a no-hitter through six innings in what was almost certainly his best start of the season. He seemed to have command of everything over his seven innings as he allowed a single hit and a single walk, striking out 10 Reds. I didn’t think there was any reason not to throw him back out there for the eighth, especially since we almost certainly would have thrown him back out there if he’d still had the no-hitter working. But more on the bullpen meltdown in a minute.
While Morton was ripping the Reds lineup to shreds, the Braves simply couldn’t get much going against Cincinnati starter Luis Castillo. There was a lot of talk about him being a prime trade deadline target during the game, and it’s easy to see why. He threw seven innings and allowed just one run, scattering six hits and striking out six. The only run he gave up was on a colossal bomb off the bat of Marcell Ozuna in the fourth, a ball that bounced into and out of the second deck in left field.
So, the eighth. The Braves had a 1-0 lead and Morton had only thrown 94 pitches. I know that that’s about the time we’d normally take a starter out, but he had shown no signs of tiring and, as I mentioned above, had the seeing-eye single to lead off the seventh found it’s way into Arcia’s glove, he’d have certainly been back out there. Also, our shorthanded bullpen has been well documented.
But we did take him out, and went to Collin McHugh. I know folks around here have decided that McHugh is terrible, but he’s been very good recently, so I don’t think it was a bad choice if you were gonna go to the bullpen. It clearly didn’t work out, though, as he gave up four straight hits and three runs to turn the game upside down.
Now down 3-1, the Braves had just three outs left to work with. But the visitors had a lot of power in their lineup, and the Reds bullpen is not very good. Ozuna hit another long home run to lead off the inning, and then with two outs, Michael Harris, a man who has had to suffer recent talk that he can’t or won’t pull the ball with authority, launched a game-tying home run that went at least two-thirds of the way up in the right field seats.
However, that brought us to the bottom of the frame, which was a total disaster. After A.J. Minter allowed a leadoff single, the Braves had two chances to get a big first out. Minter had Tommy Pham picked off, but a suboptimal throw from Olson threw Dansby out of position and Dansby couldn’t apply the tag at second. Then a few pitches later, the same batter (Joey Votto) hit a pop-up foul over by the stands down the left-field line. Any major league level left fielder would’ve called off the two infielders and made the catch, but Ozuna is certainly not that…suffice it to say that the ball hit the ground. Votto walked a couple pitches later, Minter hit the next batter with a pitch to load the bases, and Albert Almora singled through the drawn-in infield to win the game.
So not a great way to end the road trip, obviously, and it cost us a game in the standings. We’re now 3.5 back for the division and four games ahead of the last non-playoff team in the wild card race. And now comes a 10-game homestand featuring series against the Cardinals (who are in the wild card race) and the Mets, sandwiched around a three-game set against the Nats.