To say the Atlanta Braves used nine pitchers in a 13-inning game Wednesday doesn’t quite tell the tale. They actually used nine pitchers in 10 innings. Mike Foltynewicz worked the first 5 2/3. Arodys Vizcaino struck out the side in the ninth. (He’s really good.) Casey Kelly, pressed into service, worked the final four innings and did well enough, yielding one run, which came as a result of two infield hits. (Alas, it was the winning run.)
Those three Braves pitchers accounted for 32 of the game’s 39 outs. Which would mean …
The other six accounted for seven outs.
If you thought Brian Snitker, the caretaker manager, might sit in the dugout and twiddle his thumbs, this surely disabused you of that notion. He managed this May tilt between losing teams as if it was the seventh game of the World Series. His three left-handed relievers — Eric O’Flaherty, Hunter Cervenka and Ian Krol — faced one batter each. (Hence the goofy acronym LOOGY: “Left-handed one-out guy.”)
Snitker deployed two pitchers (one being Foltynewicz) in the sixth inning, two in the seventh and three in the eighth. The Braves’ undoing, as is often the case, came when Bud Norris, who has somehow been designated the set-up man, arrived to open the eighth. His team was leading 2-1.
Norris faced three hitters. Ryan Braun struck out. Jonathan Lucroy singled. Chris Carter doubled. Runners on second and third, one out. Krol was summoned to face the lefty Kirk Nieuwenhuis, whose groundout drove in the tying run. Krol was credited with a blown save. Norris was credited with a “hold.” Stats can deceive.
For those keeping score at home, that makes two games in two nights Bud had bungled. He yielded the game-winning run in the eighth Tuesday after Julio Teheran exited after seven innings (and 12 strikeouts) with a 1-1 tie. Having failed as a starter, Norris is failing as a high-leverage reliever.
(According to Baseball-Reference, opponents are hitting .438 with an OPS of 1.089 against Norris in “late & close” situations. Can’t imagine he’ll be the eighth-inning man much longer.)
The only pitchers not used by Snitker on Wednesday were Teheran, who started Tuesday; Matt Wisler, who starts tonight, and Williams Perez, who starts Friday. The Braves have often carried 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster, but this isn’t such a time. And before you ask: Jeff Francoeur wouldn’t have been the next pitcher had the game gone 16 innings; he’d been used as a pinch-hitter.
Credit Snitker for a deft move in having Gordon Beckham hit for Reid Brignac against the lefty Chris Capuano in the sixth. That resulted in the two-run homer that put the Braves ahead. Maybe you think Snitker overmanaged it from there. I think he was trying to win, which these Braves haven’t done much.
By the time the Brewers tied it, Snitker had already used six pitchers. That might have been one too many, but what’s the alternative? To say, “I won’t burn my last lefty here with a one-run lead because I might need him in the 12th?’ ” If Krol strikes out Nieuwenhuis, we’re having a different discussion.
But that, as we say, is baseball. Given how lousy the Braves have been at playing baseball, I can’t fault their interim manager for trying everything he could to hold a lead. Heck, I commend him.
Oh, and one thing more: Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis, the Braves’ Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, went 0-for-12. Freeman is hitting .256, Markakis .234. The Braves have scored three runs in the past 31 innings and five in 38. Those 21 runs they mustered in Snitker’s first four games have been rendered a blip.
Super fun reading: