It has been a first half for the ages for the Atlanta Braves. But as hot as they have been, getting to the All-Star break will be very welcomed in a clubhouse full of guys who play so hard every single day. Unfortunately, they dropped the first half finale to Tampa Bay in a 10-4 loss this afternoon. Bryce Elder had his worst start of the year and the offense was held to just one home run. Can’t win them all as they say.
Yandy Diaz once again led off the Rays first inning with a hit. Bryce got a ground ball to Olson that fit the bill of a double play ball, but a high throw from Olson allowed Diaz to get in safely at second base. He then got a flyout to right before he walked Randy Arozarena to make it two on with two outs. Jonathan Aranda then hit a double down the left field line that kicked away from Rosario allowing both runners to score.
The next batter was Isaac Paredes, who got a hanging 0-2 slider from Elder and took him out of the park for a two-run homer. A big inning for the Rays that could’ve been avoided with better defense or execution of a clutch pitch.
In the top of the second, Marcell Ozuna picked up the first hit on the day for the Braves with a two-out single off Eflin. However, nothing came of it as Rosario lined out next. Elder was working his way into trouble due to his spotty command in the bottom of the inning but a much needed double play ball got him through the inning.
The Braves got their first scoring opportunity of the day after Ozzie and Riley led off the fourth inning with back to back singles. Matt Olson did get the run home, unfortunately it came at the cost of a double play ball. Just a bit of bad luck for Matt as he hit a 106 mph screamer that one hopped right into the second baseman’s glove.
Next, the Braves catcher hit a long home run (stop us if you’ve heard that before). Except this one was a solo shot off bat of Travis d’Arnaud that traveled 400 ft. That home run made it 26 straight games with a home run for Atlanta, a new franchise record.
Unfortunately, Bryce Elder couldn’t produce a shutdown inning. A leadoff walk came around to score on a Christian Bethancourt single. The Rays hottest hitter Yandy Diaz then hit a slider, that was actually below the strike zone, over the wall for a two-run bomb.
That homer would be what chased Elder from the game. For the first time all year, Elder failed to reach the fifth inning and allowed a season high seven earned runs. Michael Tonkin came on in relief and got a couple outs to send the game to the fifth with the Rays leading 7-2.
Eflin was able to put the rough fourth inning behind him as he sat down the bottom of the Braves lineup in order. Arozarena led off the bottom of the fifth with a single. He then scored after stealing second and Taylor Walls hit a double.
Eflin’s day was done after five as Rays manager Kevin Cash was looking to snap their losing streak with some aggressive bullpen calls. The first call was an attack from another Zack. It was Zack Littell who came in and ran into some two-out trouble. Riley singled and Olson doubled to cut into the deficit and make the game 8-3. Sadly, that’s all the scoring Atlanta could produce in the sixth.
Atlanta keep chipping away in the seventh as they scratched across another run via a Michael Harris II RBI single. Unfortunately, the big inning was eluding the Braves so the Rays still held a four run lead.
Joe Jimenez came out for his second inning in relief and delivered another scoreless 1-2-3 frame. Jason Adam came out for the eighth inning for Tampa. Austin Riley collected his third hit of the game, but that’s all Adam would allow.
Interestingly enough, Kolby Allard came out for the bottom of the eighth. After surrendering a single and a walk, the man who’s torched Atlanta all series delivered the dagger. Yandy Diaz hit a two-run double bringing him to 8 hits in 13 ABs in the series.
Robert Stephenson finished off the game by getting the Braves in order, thus snapping the Rays seven game losing streak. The Braves head into the All-Star break with MLB’s best record and will pick up play on Friday July, 14th against the Chicago White Sox. If the second half is anything like the first, Braves fans will be in for a whole lot of fun.