The Atlanta Braves welcomed the World Series champion Astros to town on Friday evening for a three-game set. It looked good early on for the Braves as they got out to an early lead and were backed by a strong outing from Bryce Elder. It seemed like the team was prepared to cruise to victory.
However, it wasn't that simple as the wheels started to fall off once the bullpen entered the game.
Before covering that, let's talk about yet another impressive outing from Bryce Elder. He's been one of the best arms out of the rotation since being called up. The young right-hander only allowed one run on five hits in his six innings of work with just one walk to six strikeouts.
The first inning looked like it could come unraveled for Elder as the first batter of the game reached due to a throwing error by Austin Riley. Alex Bregman drove in that runner and gave Houston an early 1-0 lead and Elder then hit Yordan Alvarez with a pitch in the next at-bat. Fortunately, Elder was able to escape that jam as he retired the next three batters in order.
The Atlanta offense then wasted no time getting back in the game as they tagged the Astros rookie sensation, Hunter Brown, with 4 runs in the bottom of the first. Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, and Vaughn Grissom all drove in the four runs in that inning and it looked like the offense was set for another big night.
That would be all of the runs Atlanta would score for the rest of the game and at the time, it felt like that was enough with how well Elder pitched but that all changed when the Braves bullpen entered the seventh inning. Jesse Chavez was the first man up and promptly walked the first batter he faced.
It didn't get much better from that point on as Chavez allowed three straight hits and suddenly the game was tied at four a piece. Chavez exited the game and Dylan Lee was faced with the tough task of facing the heart of Houston's lineup with no outs. Lee walked Bregman but was able to get Alvarez and Abreu out. He ended the inning with a strikeout of Kyle Tucker on a nasty breaking ball perfectly located on the outside corner.
The game certainly didn't feel out of reach and the team never felt out of it as they were able to get hits but could not capitalize on runners in scoring position. They were just 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base. However, that's just the way baseball goes sometimes. The Astros have a talented bullpen that was able to keep the game close for their side.
Nick Anderson had an uneventful outing in the eighth as he allowed just one hit and struck out one batter. A.J. Minter would enter in the ninth inning and hoped to turn things over to the offense for a walk-off win. Unfortunately for him, the inning did not go to plan. Minter got the first batter out but allowed a single to Mauricio Dubon.
After that, Alex Bregman hit a ball well that looked like it was going to drop and allow the runner to at least advance to third base. However, Kevin Pillar had other plans and made an absolute web gem as he dove for the ball and made an incredible catch. Next up was the always-dangerous, Yordan Alvarez and we all know how quickly a game can change with his powerful bat.
A.J. Minter balked and this allowed Dubon to advance to second and he would then score as Alvarez launched a two-run home run to break the hearts of Atlanta fans and give Houston a 6-4 lead. Fans aren't used to the bullpen allowing too many runs so for them to allow five runs was tough to swallow.
Ryan Pressley entered to try and get the save for Houston with the top of the Braves order lurking. Pressley got Hilliard to ground out but then walked Kevin Pillar to turn things over to Ronald Acuna Jr. Ronald ended up striking out on a nasty slider as Pressley was dotting the corners.
Matt Olson entered as Atlanta's last hope and he just missed a home run but ended up getting under the ball and flying out to right field to end the game. If he'd gotten barrel on the ball, it likely would have been a two-run home run.
This was a dissapointing loss that started with such promise. Elder was phenomenal and it stinks to waste such an incredible performance with a poor showing from the bullpen. However, that's the game of baseball and sometimes it breaks your heart. Atlanta will look to take game 2 of the series on Saturday evening at 7:20 PM EST.