Atlanta Braves push Diamondbacks to extras, but fall in 11

Aug 23, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp singles during the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp singles during the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

Finding ways to lose I didn’t even know existed.

What began as a somber night in the desert for the Atlanta Braves ended in predictably ludicrous fashion.

The Braves, who had no business being in this ballgame in the ninth inning, rallied from four runs down to tie Arizona but ultimately dropped a 10-9 decision that was less prodigious offensive struggle and more horrendously played from every aspect.

It opened with a good-bye, as we bid farewell (again) to one Jeffrey Braden Francoeur.

Frenchy, hitter of lefties and harasser of umpires, was shipped to Miami for a couple of lower-level prospects and an opportunity to provide a veteran bat off the bench to a team fighting for a playoff spot. It’s tough to lose the ones you love, but Frenchy is in a better place. With any luck, he’ll start being a first-half regular like Kelly Johnson—signed in February, dealt in July for a couple of young pieces. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The 24 guys left behind had a tall order against Zack Greinke who, despite a three-game stretch featuring an 8.59 ERA and .355 opponents’ batting average, is still very much the same guy who staked a claim to Best Pitcher Alive (Non-Clayton Kershaw Division) just last season. With Julio Teheran on the bump for the Braves, this could’ve been a nice showcase for a couple of upper-echelon hurlers who haven’t had their best seasons.

They didn’t have their best nights here either.

Julio would’ve been in good shape if he could’ve figured out Wellington Castillo. He got the scoring started for Arizona in the first, stroking a two-out double to score former Brave Michael Bourn and get the Snakes on the board early.

Castillo struck again in the third, driving in Bourn and Paul Goldschmidt on a four-hopper placed perfectly between Chase d’Arnaud and Adonis Garcia. Castillo had been 1-for-7 lifetime against Teheran—he was 2-for-3 against Teheran on the evening.

Atlanta broke through in the fifth, plating two on an Ender Inciarte double. Greinke worked himself into trouble that time, walking Peterson and d’Arnaud before a sac bunt from Teheran with two strikes to put both in scoring position.

17. 10. 8. Final. 9

That got the Braves to within a run. But sometimes things fall apart, and so they did for Julio in the bottom half of the inning.

Jean Segura led off with a home run, which was not disastrous of itself. However, Jake Lamb’s two-out, two-run moonshot to right was pretty disastrous and represents Teheran’s 18th homer allowed in 2016.

The Braves were able to tack on two in the top of the sixth—Nick Markakis hit a double to the deepest part of the park to score a chugging Matt Kemp (who looked pretty winded afterward), then scored on a Flowers single. The Braves put a dent into it and assured Greinke neither a quality start nor the opportunity to head back out for the seventh inning.

Atlanta was able to extract another inning from Teheran—mercifully, given the bullpen’s recent struggles (5.54 ERA over the last two weeks)—but 11 hits and six earned allowed does not represent the finest Teheran performance. Greinke (six hits, four earned) was not terribly sharp either, but he did record his 2,000th career strikeout, getting Freddie Freeman to whiff when leading off the fourth inning.

In the seventh, Michael Bourn tripled (again!) and Paul Goldschmidt nearly killed a camera operator, crushing a homer to dead center and into a camera well. Ian Krol made it pretty easy to see why Brian Snitker wanted to leave Teheran in for another inning.

In all honesty, the most interesting thing to happen through the first seven innings or so for Atlanta was probably Kelsey Wingert’s ill-fated attempt at eating Arizona’s Triple Play Sundae. This face said it all.

This was an ugly, sloppy game. After Arizona made it 9-4, Edwin Escobar promptly loaded the bases—including throwing at Flowers, after Arizona took umbrage with Madison Younginer hitting Rickie Weeks in the previous half—and gave the Braves a gift run via d’Arnaud fielder’s choice. But Braves gonna Brave, so Gordon Beckham and Inciarte struck out to end the inning.

Then Arizona suddenly turned into the pre-Kelly Leak Bad News Bears.

In the ninth, Adonis Garcia would take Enrique Burgos deep in front of a capacity crowd numbering in the teens. Desperate to lose, Arizona left a clearly-rattled Burgos in to face three more batters—he left with runners on the corners and nobody out, having single-handedly cut Arizona’s lead from four runs to two in less time than it took you to read this paragraph.

Flowers greeted Dominic Leone with a double that scored Kemp. Arizona could not buy an out—at one point, a Leone offering skipped in the dirt and rolled away, then Castillo nearly threw the ball into the outfield trying to deliver it back to him. It was like they were collectively embodying the spirit of Shawn Bradley in Space Jam.

Then d’Arnaud lifted a sac fly to center that easily scored Nick Markakis. Tie game. At 1:30 in the morning on the East Coast. With Atlanta playing a man down anyway.

Mercifully, this garbage fire would only last two more innings before the Diamondbacks put the Braves (who had to pinch-hit Rob Whalen with the bases loaded in the 10th) out of their misery. Lamb doubled, then scooted over to third on a wild pitch. Brandon Drury hit a low liner to left that Matt Kemp dived to grab, but he couldn’t get to his feet quick enough to nail Lamb at the plate.

This was not a fun experience. I did not enjoy myself.

Next: Eighteen to go

Thursday is the series finale, and it will feature the return of Matt Wisler. He’ll be greeted by reigning NL Player of the Week Robbie Ray at 9:40 p.m. (ET).