Braves get a lead, but only briefly in 6th consecutive loss
HOUSTON – After getting a lead for the first time in 53 innings over eight days, the skidding Braves only kept it for one inning.
Freddie Freeman and Adonis Garcia hit home runs in the fourth inning to give the Braves a 2-1 lead, but Jaime Garcia gave up three runs in the fifth and the Astros completed a two-game sweep with a 4-2 win at Minute Made Park that extended Atlanta’s losing streak to six games, matching a season high.
The Braves trailed by two runs when they loaded the bases in the eighth inning, but Matt Kemp struck out against reliever Will Harris to end the inning, their third strikeout in the inning with runners in scoring position.
“I swung at those first two pitches that were balls. Maybe if I don’t, in better count…. He got me right there. I have to come through for my team right there. I let the team down. Like I said, we’ve got to get those big hits. We get something going right there, maybe it’ll get us back on track. But we’re just not getting those timely hits and getting runners in. We’re not doing anything right at the moment.”
The Braves (11-20) have lost eight of nine since a four-game winning streak, while the American League West-leading Astros won for the eighth time in 10 games and improved to 23-11, the best 34-game start in franchise history.
“One day we pitch well and we don’t hit, one day we hit well and don’t pitch,” Kemp said. “We’ve just all got to get on the same page. We have a great baseball team, we’re just not playing good right now. We’re definitely better than our record, we feel like we’re better that our record, but we’re just not getting the job done.”
The Braves were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position including eighth-inning strikeouts by Ender Inciarte and Brandon Phillips with two on and Kemp after Freeman walked to load the bases. Inciarte also struck out with two runners on and one out in the third inning.
“Big situation, I think you would want Matt Kemp up with the bases loaded,” Freeman said. “If that happens again Friday (series opener at Miami) we’re going to want him up there again in the same situation. As much as we want to be able to do it every single time, it’s baseball, we’re not going to be able to do it every time. Hopefully he’ll get another opportunity on Friday.”
Garcia (1-2) gave up six hits, four runs and five walks – his second consecutive five-walk game – in six innings and was undermined by ongoing issues with two-out damage and struggles facing a lineup the third time through. The former Cardinals left-hander fell to 3-7 with a 6.36 ERA in 10 starts against the Astros.
He not only snapped a string of seven consecutive games in which the Braves had given up at least one run in the first inning, Garcia retired the first eight batters before Jake Marisnick’s two-out single in the third inning. But Marisnick stole second base and George Springer followed with an RBI single to put the Braves in familiar position – trailing early.
Freeman’s leadoff homer in the fourth inning tied the score was his 12th home run in 31 games. Last season he hit his 12th home run in the team’s 65th game and finished with a career-high 34 homers.
Two outs later, Garcia’s fourth homer gave the Braves a 2-1 lead, the first time they led in a game since the end of a May 2 win against the Mets.
Jaime Garcia worked out of trouble in the fourth inning after a two-out throwing error by third baseman Adonis Garcia and a Marwin Gonzalez single put runners on the corners. But his two-out troubles flared again an inning later in the fifth.
He gave up a leadoff walk before inducing a double play. But Carlos Beltran’s two-out single began a decisive stretch against Garcia, who walked the next batter, Jose Altuve, before Carlos Correa pulled a line-drive two-run double to the left-field corner for a 3-2 Astros lead.
Former Braves catcher Evan Gattis followed with another walk before Yuli Gurriel’s two-out single pushed the lead to 4-2.
Garcia has allowed eight runs in the fifth inning, more than twice as many as he’s allowed in any other inning. That reflects his struggles the third time facing opposing hitters, who were already batting .281 with a 1.017 OPS in the third plate appearances against him before Wednesday, compared to a .615 OPS the first time through batting orders and .608 OPS the second time through.
“(Jaime Garcia) looked great. He just had that one bad inning,” Freeman said. “He walked three guys in that inning. Walks are going to kill you. But he gave us six innings. If you have one bad inning we still should have a chance to win a game. He gave us a chance, that’s all you can ask for.”