The Atlanta Braves are making the Wild Card race entirely too interesting. Despite coming back from a 4-1 deficit and taking the lead late in the game, the back end of the bullpen had a rare implosion as the Braves fell 7-5 to the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon.
Brandon Beachy started the game off brilliantly, striking out six batters in the first three innings. However, his control failed him in the fourth inning. He gave up four runs and walked three batters (one intentional) while also committing the cardinal sin at the worst possible time. After issuing an intentional walk to load the bases with two outs, Beachy walked pitcher Dillon Gee to score the game's first run. A bases-clearing double by Ruben Tejada capped the four-run inning.
“This was one of those outings for him," Fredi Gonzalez said of Beachy. "You can’t put it all on him. We had some opportunities, the right guys there, we just couldn’t capitalize, couldn’t close it out.”
The Braves would come back to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Alex Gonzalez continued his recent surge with a solo home run, and Michael Bourn and Dan Uggla each drove in a run. The Braves then took the lead in the seventh inning on pinch-hitter Freddie Freeman's RBI single.
When the Braves lead after seven innings, it usually means a win is inevitable. However, Jonny Venters couldn't find the strike zone as he walked in the tying run and gave up the go-ahead run on a single by Tejada. The Mets pushed their lead to 7-5 on a solo home run by Lucas Duda off of Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning.
“I just wasn’t throwing the ball over the plate today," Venters said. "And when I did it was up in the zone and out over the plate. I just didn’t make any pitches when I had to. We scratched and clawed all day and for us to have a lead in the eighth and to not get it done – no excuses, I blew that game. I just couldn’t throw strikes.”
The Braves' pitchers have been solid all year, but they were undone Sunday afternoon by the numerous free passes issued. The always-candid Chipper Jones didn't hold back when asked about the pitchers' lack of control on the mound.
“Walks period," Jones said. "That’s the name of the game. If you can’t throw strikes, don’t deserve to win. Pretty simple. Two situations there in the innings where they scored multiple runs where we couldn’t find the plate."
The Braves' Wild Card lead is now a mere 3 1/2 games after the St. Louis Cardinals were victorious Sunday night.
The Braves will travel south as they will take on the Florida Marlins in a three-game set. The Braves will send Mike Minor (5-2, 4.11 ERA) to the mound against Ricky Nolasco (10-11, 4.42 ERA) at 7:10 EDT on Monday night.
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