As much as the Braves want to distance themselves from last September, they keep finding ways to remind people of it.
Friday night was a prime example. The Braves blew multiple leads, including a one-run lead in the ninth by Craig Kimbrel, and lost to the Phillies in 10 innings 8-5.
The Braves headed into September conjuring up memories of last September’s wild card collapse, which they completed on the last day of the season with an extra-inning loss to the Phillies after a blown save by Kimbrel.
The reigning National League rookie of the year has blown only three saves since then, and two of them have come against the Phillies. This time a stray 0-2 fastball to Erik Kratz cost him a solo home run in the ninth – the first home run in six Kimbrel has allowed as a major leaguer on an 0-2 count.
“I was trying to elevate on him and it didn’t go high enough,” said Kimbrel, who blamed location on the 99 mph pitch, more than familiarity Phillies hitters have with him now. “…I threw a pitch right down the middle, 0-2. Any time you do that, no matter how hard you do it, it’s going to get hit.”
The Braves had rallied to win both games this year when Kimbrel blew a save. But this time it was the Phillies doing all the rallying – from 4-1 down in the fifth and 5-4 in the ninth. John Mayberry Jr. gave the Phillies their first lead since the second inning with a three-run home run off Cristhian Martinez in the 10th.
The Braves have lost nine of their past 13 games and fell 6 ½ games behind the Nationals in the NL East. But they didn’t lose ground in the NL wild card race as both St. Louis and Pittsburgh lost.
“You hate to let those kinds of games slip away,” Braves center fielder Michael Bourn said. “…You can’t lose too many of those as you go down the stretch like that. We have to have those games to take it to the next level.”
The Braves were left kicking themselves again about missed opportunities after they went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners. It started when Jones struck out as Bourn got thrown out in the first inning and continued through the eighth when Paul Janish held at third base on a wild pitch as Martin Prado was waving him home.
“The toughest ones when you’re at third base are when the balls are going away from you,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “You don’t have the depth perception. But you know what, Prado hit a rocket to the first baseman in that inning and we could have used a couple of extra runs.”
Staggering home after scoring only four runs in three games of a series loss in San Diego, the Braves were looking to make an impression to open a seven-game homestand.
They thought they had, when 40-year-old Chipper Jones went barreling into Kratz in home plate collision in the fourth inning that went for an out but seemed to fire up his Braves teammates, who rallied with four runs in the next inning.
Prado and Freddie Freeman hit a pair of home runs off Roy Halladay to chase him after only 4 2/3 innings. But Mike Minor wasn’t for much longer.
Minor lasted only five innings after giving up four straight singles without recording an out in the sixth. Ryan Howard singled softly to center to plate two runs, accounting for a bigger blow than his solo home run off Minor in the second inning. Then Ty Wigginton tied it 4-4 with a sacrifice fly to left off Chad Durbin.
The five innings for Minor was his shortest outing since a rain delay limited him to 3 2/3 innings against the Marlins on Aug. 2. Otherwise he had pitched six or more innings in eight of his previous nine outings dating back to June 30, when he pitched five innings against the Nationals.
“If they give me runs,” Minor said. “I need to go out there and shut that inning down.”