Braves drop final game to Astros 5-4

As has been the case on many Sundays this year (trust me, I’ve had to write recaps for all of them), the Braves dropped the final game of their weekend series with the defending American League champion Houston Astros. The visitors won 5-4 at Truist Park this afternoon. That and the fact that the Phillies let the Mets come back and win combined to make it a not-great day, dropping the Braves four games back of first place in the NL East. For the record, they remain 9 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee, who’s currently the last team out of the playoffs, and 7 1/2 games up on San Diego for the top wild card spot, so they appear to be all but safely in the playoffs (FiveThirtyEight has them at greater than 99% to make them) and very likely to host a wild card series if it they don’t win the division.

As for today, Matt Olson got things started well enough with a two-run homer in the first inning off of Houston starter Jose Urquidy. That was all the home side would get until the ninth though.

Charlie Morton racked up the strikeouts for the Braves, collecting 11 in 97 pitches over six innings. He allowed five hits and two walks, but three of the hits and one of the walks came in the third inning. A bases-loaded, two-run single by Yordan Alvarez (who it was nice to see back out there after Friday night’s health scare) tied the game at 2-2.

Frankly the bullpen usage today kind of screamed, “Well, we’ve won the first two games of this series…I think we can safely rest our best guys today and see how it goes.” Tyler Matzek got through the seventh inning in 14 pitches, and it might have been worth running him back out there for the start of the eighth. Alas, it was the overworked Dylan Lee instead and Dylan didn’t have it today. He recorded only one out and allowed two runs (only of them was earned, as Guillermo Heredia compounded the problems by kicking a ball in right field on Kyle Tucker’s RBI single). A sac fly extended the Houston lead to 4-2 before Jackson Stephens came in to get the Braves out of the inning. Stephens then allowed a run in the ninth, as well, which turned out to be big when the Braves scored two in the bottom half of the frame to make it a one-run game again.

The unwillingness to use the best relievers in close games where the Braves are behind does continue to be frustrating, though again, it seemed that today it was more a matter of all the good relievers being down. I did see some talk in the game thread wondering how Snitker’s bullpen management seemed so good in the playoffs when he’s unwilling to use his best relievers in a game where the Braves are losing. The answer is that he does use those relievers when we’re behind in the playoffs. At least he does so more often than he does in the regular season. It’s an obviously valid criticism of Brian Snitker’s regular season bullpen management, though, especially when you had Kenley Jansen pointlessly pitching with a four-run lead in the ninth on Friday. I said this earlier in the week, but to act like a four-run lead needs the all-hands-on-deck treatment while a one or two run deficit is time to throw out the B team and hope for the best makes no sense.

Regardless, it remained a good week. The Braves went 5-2 on this homestand, which featured a division showdown and a World Series rematch, and lopped a game-and-a-half off their deficit in the NL East. They go on a six-game NL Central road swing this coming week: three in Pittsburgh and three in St. Louis with an off day on Thursday.

44 thoughts on “Braves drop final game to Astros 5-4”

  1. I am a little amazed at how our FO seems to know so much about every player we draft, pick up by waiver, trade for. Unreal. I know the Ozuna extension looks like a big miss, but compared to the usual miss percentages in MLB? Really? How does Anthopoulos not get Executive of the Year?

  2. Seems to me like Snitker is managing a bit like we’re in first place. And, if you think about the Wild Card standings, we are. Hence, you want to prioritize protecting your best high-leverage bullpen arms, even if you lose a game here or there.

    If we were in first place in the division, it’s obvious that’s what you would do. Since we all want to win the division, it’s really frustrating to watch — particularly considering that we know the benefits of winning the division will be significant come October. But, it’s somewhat rational behavior if you consider that we have a playoff spot mostly sewn up.

    What do you think?

  3. My thoughts on the Waters promotion:

    Also, I agree with Alex. Snitker is managing like he’s trying to protect a division lead. Lee is gassed. It’s apparent. His spin rate is well below average on all his pitches so he has to rely on location and location is the first thing that goes when fatigue sets in. Pitching him last night (and starting Ozuna) was undeniably bad managing. Lee needs to go to AAA until September and just not pitch for a few days because the Braves are going to need him if they’re going to win this thing.

  4. By the way, Tarnok pitched in relief again the other night at AAA and looked good. Seems like that could end up being his role either in September or in 2023.

  5. @8

    Yeah, that’s always weird to me too, but it means that he was “rostered”, which just signifies he was on the 40-man. I wish they’d change the wording because it doesn’t really make sense.

  6. I believe that Snitker is trying to preserve his best relievers by not overworking them. I think Lee was the wrong decision, but a huge problem for many managers, including Dusty Baker, is burning out relievers. Based on that criteria, I think Snitker is doing pretty well.

  7. @ 8,

    Actually, they are added to the 40 man roster and then optioned to AAA. So, they are recalled.

    If he wasn’t on the 40 man it would have been another obtuse phrase “selected the contract of.” Because the Major League Club is choosing to make his contractual relationship a relationship with the Major League Club.

  8. I’ll take the bait, @4.

    Wildcard or no, Soroka or no, whether Strider is starting or picking up two- to three-inning saves a la Morton for the WS-winning Astros, I would not want to face these Braves in the playoffs.

    Obviously, a lot can go wrong from here, health-wise, etc. But if things break right, we could welcome back Soroka and Albies and give Acuña enough rest to allow him to contribute as much as he possibly can this season.

    I don’t know if that’s good enough to overcome “The playoffs are a crapshoot (so therefore, avoid an additional round of playoff baseball at all cost).” But Snitker playing it safe seems defensible to me, given the above.

  9. Let me clarify a bit. I would not have brought in Dylan Lee based on the latest samples. And not busting on Lee here, but I would’ve went with anyone else over Lee. This was not an “after the fact” thought. Lee looked exhausted on Saturday and his August ERA is 7, which could be just the regression monster biting him or fatigue. I want to believe it’s fatigue, but it could be the former.

  10. Thank you, Cliff. I should have known but did not. Many are called, less recalled, even fewer chosen. Hope Waters does well.

  11. @13 I agree with you on Lee due yo his recent struggles. I also think Stephens is a good option against the lower level teams but should not have been brought back out in the 9th in a still tight game yesterday and gives up what turns out to be the game winning run

  12. I believe Lee has a .359 woba in August, that is not good, and especially bad when called in to face righties.
    He has been good, no slight against him, but is definitely overworked lately.

  13. The bullpen has a lot of arms, on paper, but we’re over-working the bottom third of it because of the unwritten rules where you only use the best guys if you’re winning in the last couple of innings. And we’re not letting the mid-relievers go more than one inning enough for my tastes. The only cure for now is more blowout wins.

  14. So I get that we can’t throw our best relievers in every late-and-close game. Sometimes there’s gonna be a bunch in a row and some rotation is gonna have to happen. As I mentioned last week, I think it would be great if we didn’t throw them in games we’ve essentially already won though. There is no reason to throw the best relievers with a four-run lead, and there’s not really a whole lot of reason to throw them with a three-run lead late. Not constantly burning them in those situations would make them more available for situations where we’re down by a run.

  15. Fully agree. Close game in the 6th and later might happen 4 times in a week, so we’re gonna sometimes see guys brought in that aren’t ideal, but how many times are we up 3 or 4 late and throwing Minter/Jansen and other “good” guys? Seems like a lot this year. Nitpicking after a 5-2 week against two teams both 30 games over .500, but that’s what we do sometimes.

  16. @ 19 – Agreed. I was not a fan of Snitker, but given his results last year, he has grown on me. The Braves have a team that likes each other for the most part and they are intense, but not to the point of being so tight they are at each other’s throat if someone messes up.

    I think Showalter is a great manager and the biggest reason the Met’s seem to be performing in a way that is extremely un-Mets-like down the stretch. However, I think Snit outmanaged Showalter in the last series and is at least comparable when it comes to in game decisions. No manager will meet the standards of Bravey or others on this blog.

  17. When Snit gets you down, he’s going to stomp your neck and that’s just the way it is. I have no problem with this approach.

  18. I’ve got no real complaints Snit’s bullpen usage. We all fully remember Bobby running O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel into the ground, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised Snit has been using many different relievers, even in close games. We should see the benefits in September / October.

    If we do start using lower relievers on the totem pole for four run leads late, then if they get into trouble, you’re still burning a Jansen or Minter to get them out of it. Might as well use the best arms in the 9th, especially if they were warming up in the 8th. But a 5+ run lead, then use Jackson et al.

    Let’s gain a game tonight. Even though I don’t have much faith in Odorizzi.

  19. Now that I think about it, getting Tarnok ready to relieve is pretty similar to what we did last year with Dylan Lee and Spencer Strider. It was amazing who was left on and off the playoff roster. I think we’ll have a similar if not quite as radical strategy this year. I think the last 3 or 4 on our roster will get booted, but we should have Albies and my guess is there will be about a 50% chance for Soroka.

  20. Odorizzi may have silenced a few of his critics. If he gives us 6 or 7 more starts like this, we’ll have something.

  21. Anybody else wanna criticize me for pointing out that since Riley signed Aug 1 new contract .. he doesn’t have the same approach at plate … he is pressing bad .. he’s gotta snap out if we have a chance …you can’t have your 3 hitter hitting .190 for August …

  22. @29 Before you get too hopeful just remember it’s the Pirates, who have scored fewer runs than anyone in the NL.

  23. @31 is Riley pressing because he signed the big contract or is he relaxed because he got paid?

    You gotta pick one. You can’t have both!

  24. Wait till 162. Every player, every player has ups and downs. Even the ones whom win batting titles.
    Some were on Harris. BOOM BRAVES win.
    The serious question is what does Olsen and Gallo have in common?
    Is left field and DH GROSS? Very little talent there.
    Tomorrow night is The Lumineers.
    Mike Schmidt hit 50 Home Runs at the chewing gum joint. Who is the only other visitor to hit 30 or more?
    Good night sports fans. Remember it is detrimental to play only one sport year round. This does not lead to athletes.
    Tom Glavine and I, plus many others totally agree.

  25. @32 – At this point, the Pirates are hitting a little better than the Marlins, but I definitely understand your point. On the radio they said Odorizzi had discovered something with his mechanics the last time he was in a rain delay. I don’t think a 3.75 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP in Houston was that bad. He’s definitely stunk it up with Atlanta until tonight. A WHIP of over 1.7, which he had before tonight’s game, will not get you very far. I’ll take 4 hits and no walks like tonight over 6 innings any day.

    I still understand that it was Pittsburgh. If he keeps his walk rate down though, I think he’ll at least gravitate to his numbers at Houston.

  26. With the amount of shows he’s attending, I think EdK may be a Lumineers band member.
    Great pitching, great MH2, great win. Go Braves!

  27. From ESPN:
    “A quick look at how teams are doing, as a whole, with their rookie classes this season.

    Team rookie leaders
    1. Braves (7.25 rookie WAR)
    2. Mariners (5.86)
    3. Cardinals (5.68)
    4. Orioles (5.58)
    5. Guardians (5.43)

    But Atlanta? Come on, this isn’t even fair. It’s not just that the Braves are the defending champs, but before the season, Atlanta’s system was just 27th in Kiley’s rankings. And yet, here we are, with the Braves continuing to rely on homegrown players to help them contend right now. In addition to Harris and Strider, the Braves have gotten strong contributions from rookie pitcher Dylan Lee and, most recently, infielder Vaughn Grissom. — Doolittle”

  28. Last night the Braves got a win from an Odorizzi start and a Mets loss – hard to do better than that.

    Now let’s put the pedal to the metal and get the offense going again! Would be awfully nice to have a couple of wins by comfortable margins – lotta tense innings vs. the Mets and Astros have really taken it out of me.

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