Milwaukee – Yes, the Braves were playing yet another hot team in what was supposed to be a mild stretch in the schedule. But that wasn’t their biggest issue Monday night.
The Braves kept finding ways to beat themselves in a 4-1 loss to the Brewers, after a Jonny Venters’ throwing error changed the complexion of the game in a four-run seventh inning.
Mike Minor and the Braves had shut out the Brewers for 5 2/3 innings but Minor had to come out after piling up a career-high 115 pitches. The Braves turned to their middle relievers with a 1-0 lead and watched Venters give up a leadoff single and a walk to Jean Segura, who was trying to bunt the runner over.
When Jeff Bianchi followed with a sacrifice bunt, Venters fielded and threw wildly to third base, allowing the Brewers to tie the game 1-1. The play set off a chain reaction of three more runs, when the runner, Eric Farris, might have been safe at third either way.
Chad Durbin walked the bases loaded and gave up a two-run double to Norichka Aoki to break the game open.
“The leadoff hit wasn’t a bad pitch, but they’re trying to give you an out right there and to walk that guy is unacceptable,” Venters said. “This loss is on my back. I didn’t do my job. I let my team down that battled through a good game today.”
The Braves outhit the Brewers 10-4 but got thrown out on the basepaths four times. Martin Prado went 3-for-4 but got thrown out at third base twice, trying to go first to third on singles. The right fielder Aoki got him in the fourth inning for the second out, and center fielder Carlos Gomez gunned him down to end the eighth.
“Early in the game, I’m fine with it,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Trying to go first to third with one out, I’m OK with it, but the one there with Danny (Uggla) at the plate swinging it, the tying run at the plate, that’s not acceptable.”
The Brewers won for the 11th time in 16 games to keep their faint wild card hopes alive. The Braves snapped a five-game winning streak and fell to 3-16 on Mondays.
While the Braves have their Monday hex to work through, Minor had his own personal demons to exorcise.
Minor was pitching at Miller Park for the first time since April 6, 2011 in what was probably the worst start of his career. Minor walked three batters in his first 14 pitches that day and was doing well to last 4 1/3 innings in a 5-4 loss.
Unlike that meltdown in a spot start for the injured Jair Jurrjens, Minor was in control Monday even when he wasn’t.
Minor needed 50 pitches to get through the first two innings and gave up two walks to the first five batters he faced. But he never got rattled, not even when he had to face reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun with a runner at third base in a scoreless game. He got Braun to line out to end the third.
“I was like ‘I’m not doing that again,’” said Minor, who buckled down when his mind started wandering to his previous start here. “I was like ‘I’m going to throw some strikes.’ I thought I threw some pretty good pitches early on. They didn’t offer at them.”
Minor was at 99 pitches after only five innings, though, so it would be a short night, despite the fact that he extended his scoreless streak over his past two outings to 12 2/3 innings.
Minor gave up only two hits, walked two and struck out eight to leave the Braves with a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning. But the Braves have scored only two runs in his past two starts.
Andrelton Simmons, making his first start in more than two months, got the Braves’ only run across, when he grounded into a double play in the fifth inning with runners first and third.
The Braves had a hard enough time getting much going against Brewers hard-throwing rookie Wily Peralta, but they ran themselves out of three scoring opportunities in the first four innings.
Jason Heyward was caught stealing at second to end the first. Freddie Freeman was picked off first base in the second. And Prado got thrown out at third by Aoki on a Heyward single, leaving the Braves with nothing to show for three consecutive singles in the fourth inning.
“I can live with getting thrown out stealing,” Chipper Jones said. “I can live with getting thrown out going first to third. You’re being aggressive. You’re forcing guys to make perfect throws under duress. And they did it tonight. But pickoffs and other shady baserunning, there’s no excuse for that. But they made plays. You’ve got to give them credit tonight.”