ICYMI: Atlanta Braves bullpen falters in Thursday loss to Pirates

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 20: Jacob Webb #71 of the Atlanta Braves walks off the field after being pulled in the 10th inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Truist Park on May 20, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 20: Jacob Webb #71 of the Atlanta Braves walks off the field after being pulled in the 10th inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Truist Park on May 20, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Braves dropped their series opener with Pittsburgh despite homers from Contreras and Swanson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta Braves fans, Ronald Acuña Jr’s first walk-off home run on Wednesday didn’t propel the team into a winning streak.

Thursday’s series opener with the Pirates was yet another tough game for the Braves as they dropped Game 1 in extras. Extra-inning affairs haven’t been kind to Atlanta as they are 1-5 in such games this season.

William Contreras and Dansby Swanson homered but that wasn’t enough as the bullpen woes for Atlanta continued to be a glaring issue, especially in high leverage situations.

The Braves now find themselves at 20-24 which is definitely not what many fans expected to see as we approach the end of May.

Some of that may come from the fact that the late-inning magic that Atlanta experienced the past two seasons has seemingly worn off.

Atlanta is just 2-for-42 and has a record of 1-9 when they are tied after 8 innings this year.

That is certainly not going to cut it if the Braves expect to make the postseason in 2021.

Atlanta Braves continue to struggle between offense and bullpen relief

Drew Smyly gave up 3 earned runs on Thursday evening and all 3 of those runs came via home runs.

Smyly has allowed 11 homers this season which is the most allowed in the National League. However, despite that, he has pitched much better since coming off the IL.

His pitches have looked a little sharper and the breaking ball has been much more beneficial for him. His start Thursday was a quality start as he allowed just 3 runs on 6 hits with 7 strikeouts through 6 innings.

The Braves offense had an opportunity in the bottom of the fourth inning to blow things open as they had the bases loaded.

They weren’t able to capitalize on this unfortunately as Wil Crowe struck out Freddie Freeman with a well-placed changeup.

Atlanta broke up the tie game in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a go-ahead homer off the bat of Dansby Swanson.

As fate would have it, the bullpen woes for Atlanta continued as the lead was surrendered and the Pirates tied things up at 4 apiece in the 7th inning.

Edgar Santana bailed out Sean Newcomb and didn’t allow Pittsburgh to do any more damage in that inning.

Matzek and Martin kept things tied as they pitched well in their outings allowing just 1 hit between the two of them.

This led Atlanta into extra innings which as mentioned before, haven’t been kind to them.

Jacob Webb found himself tossed into a tough situation as he started the inning with a runner on second and with how poorly Jacob has pitched lately, I’m sure that made plenty of fans nervous.

Those fans would be right to be nervous with almost anyone coming out of this bullpen as the bullpen ERA sits at 4.83. That’s the fourth-worst ERA in the NL.

The only options available for the top of the tenth were Webb, Tomlin, and Dayton. That is extremely disheartening to know we weren’t able to have more dependable options available in such a high-leverage situation.

Will Smith and Luke Jackson had worked two days in a row and A.J. Minter had a meltdown inning on Wednesday where he allowed 3-runs.

Definitely not where this team wants to be and I know they would all admit that. Things just aren’t lining up the way many of us expected.

This team has performed so well the past two seasons that I think many of us forget that it baseball can be unforgiving and things can go wrong very quickly.

The Braves are so close if they could just get some consistency from the offense and stability in the bullpen, they’d be fine.

It either has to resolve itself or the front office will have to make some drastic moves to fix the issue.

There were some positives to take from this game like Smyly having another quality start, Swanson going 3-for-4 with a good approach at the plate, and Contreras hitting his 4th homer in 43 at-bats.

Next. Braves add veteran catcher Kevan Smith. dark

I know it’s exhausting as a fan to keep looking for silver linings. I have to hope there is an end to these struggles. Every frustration that you may feel as a fan right now is absolutely justified.