They came home flying high after one of their best road trips in years, but the Braves were brought back down by a loss to the Reds that extended their Monday blues.
Jonny Venters allowed two runs on three hits in the eighth inning and the Braves began a four-game homestand with a 3-1 loss, their fifth in seven games at Turner Field.
The Braves are 0-6 on Mondays and 22-8 on all other days. They’ve totaled 11 runs in six Monday games.
“I’ve got to do a better job of going out there and attacking hitters, throwing strikes early in the count,” said Venters, who has allowed five runs and 10 hits in five May innings. “I didn’t do that tonight, and I cost my team the game.”
First baseman Freddie Freeman left after the seventh inning with blurred vision in his right eye. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he tried two different pairs of contacts to no avail, and would be examined by a team specialist late Monday.
The Braves threatened in the eighth inning, loading the bases on a walk and two hits before Reds lefty fireballer Aroldis Chapman struck out Jason Heyward to end the inning. With bases loaded, Heyward is 1-for-7 with five strikeouts.
There were two on with one out when Brian McCann flied out just in front of the right-field warning track.
“Chapman did a nice job wiggling out of that situation.” Gonzalez said. “We had some opportunities; I think the inning before we had some people on base also, and they got out of it. When Mac swung the bat and that ball left the bat, I thought we had a chance.”
Braves rookie Randall Delgado pitched 6-2/3 innings of four-hit ball and was charged with only one unearned run. It was his third consecutive strong start with nothing to show for it but a loss in that period. He got no decision Monday.
“Delgado pitched his butt off,” Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said.
Since April 10, the Braves are 14-4 on the road and 8-6 at home.
Venters has been scored upon in three of six May appearances. In the late innings of close games, opponents have hit .321 (17-for-53) this season against the left-hander.
“I haven’t seen the video, but I’m sure some of the balls that were hit, were [on] fastballs that didn’t have any depth to them,” Gonzalez said. “That’s something that can be fixed real easily. We’ll keep running him out there.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened with Jonny in the eighth inning, but it’s not worrying me either. He’ll be just fine.”
After Drew Stubbs reached on an infield single to start the Reds’ eighth, he moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Brandon Phillips’ one-out double off the center-field wall. Chris Heisey’s sharp two-out double drove in another run to push the lead to 3-1 and draw a smattering of boos from the crowd of 19,697.
Venters said his rough May hasn’t resulted from any arm soreness or fatigue.
“My arm feels great,” he said. “Like I said, I’m falling behind a lot of hitters. Can’t do that, especially late in the games. I’ve been allowing a lot of baserunners, and tonight I just didn’t make any pitches when I needed to.”
“I’ve just got to do a better job of going out there and attacking guys. I’m making a lot of non-competitive pitches, pitches that guys aren’t even thinking about offering at. And I’m making even worse pitches over the plate and they’re hitting the ball hard.”
Hot-hitting Michael Bourn showed what speed can do when he manufactured the tying run for the Braves in the fifth inning almost by himself. He tripled to the right-field corner with one out, then made a daring dash to score on Martin Prado’s fly ball to shallow right field.
Right fielder Jay Bruce, undoubtedly surprised that Bourn was running on the play, rushed a throw that went a few feet right of the plate. With Bourn bearing down on him, catcher Devin Mesoraco rushed things, too, starting his sweeping motion before he had possession of the ball. The ball fell to the ground as Bourn crossed the plate to make the score 1-all.
That was, however, the only offense the Braves could muster in 6-2/3 innings against Reds starter Homer Bailey, who had posted a 6.19 ERA in his previous three starts.
Bailey allowed one run and six hits against a Braves team that had totaled 97 hits and 56 runs in nine games on its just-concluded 7-2 road trip. A trip that ended with a three-game weekend sweep at St. Louis against the defending World Series champions – and leaders of the NL Central, ahead of Cincinnati.
Delgado has a 1.33 ERA in his past three starts, with 13 hits four runs (three earned) allowed in 20-1/3 innings. The Braves have scored a total of two runs while he’s been in those games.
“He goes 6-2/3 innings, gives up an unearned run, gives us a great chance to win the ballgame,” Gonzalez said. “He just keeps getting better. You can’t wait for him to go back out there five days from now and see what he can do.”
He gave up a leadoff double to Bruce in the second inning, but after a sacrifice bunt Delgado struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning unscathed.
The Reds took a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the fourth, after two-out singles by Bruce and Heisey. With runners on first and second, Todd Frazier grounded to rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, who tried to get the out at second base with a shovel toss to … well, no one.
Uggla had pulled up on the play, since Heisey, running on a 3-2 count, was already near second base and Pastornicky could have thrown to first for the inning-ending out.
The ball sailed slowly through the air to no one at second base and Bruce scored the go-ahead run. Gonzalez said he only assume Pastornicky wasn’t aware the runners were going with two outs and the count full.
“I think it happens more with younger players than veteran guys,” Gonzalez said. “Really, that’s elementary stuff, those kinds of situations. But it’s the big leagues and it’s his first year. We were praising him on how he’s handled all these situations this afternoon [during the manager’s pregame session with media]. I might have jinxed him.”
Pastornicky said: “It’s unacceptable. Had a play up the middle, I was just figuring, throw it to second. But with two outs I’ve got to go to first…. I should have communicated a little better before the play. It’s just one of those learning experiences. It’s unacceptable. It can’t happen, especially in that situation. All I can do is make sure it doesn’t happen again.”