TORONTO – The good news is that the Braves have not been victorious against the Blue Jays during any season that they have won a World Series.
The best news is that Atlanta can now turn the page on a weekend of frustration that ended with Raicel Iglesias hitting a ninth-inning lead in a 6-5 loss to Toronto on Sunday afternoon at the Rogers Center.
“We didn’t swing the bat very well and played poor defense,” said Braves’ Kevin Pillar. “We had a chance in the ninth and that’s the way it is sometimes. It’s like when you’re in one of those things, everything is going against you – both individually and collectively.”
This has always been a difficult stretch for the Braves, who learned on Tuesday that they would go two months without both Max Fried and Kyle Wright in the starting rotation. But as they find themselves in the midst of a four-game losing streak, starting to pitch wasn’t the problem. It sure wasn’t during this Toronto series.
Building a bullpen for the second time in four games (five days), Atlanta took a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning on Sunday. The challenge of navigating a game with nothing but painkillers is over. But Iglesias proceeded to allow three singles and issue a walk while facing six batters in the ninth.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we had a chance to win the game,” said head coach Brian Snicker. “However, we couldn’t close the deal. It’s frustrating, but this game is frustrating.”
That’s certainly one way to explain last weekend — or most of the games the Braves have played against the Blue Jays over the past three seasons. Atlanta has now lost nine straight games against Toronto, and the 2021 Braves won the World Series after losing 0-6 against the Blue Jays during the regular season.
“We’ve been through it all,” said third baseman Austin Riley. “There is no panic. You just have to swallow it.”
What’s hard to swallow is how swept the Braves are in this Toronto Series.
Spencer Strider recorded 12 strikeouts and made a career-high 32 swings and errors while throwing 110 pitches over 6 2/3 innings pitched. Since Dylan Lee was an opener two days earlier and AJ Minter was unavailable, Snitker rolled the dice with Danny Young, who quickly allowed the Blue Jays to double their one-run advantage. But it’s hard to consider the game winnable when the attack has been stopped.
Bryce Elder pitched effectively over five innings, but Marcel Ozuna’s two-run homer accounted for the only runs scored by the Atlanta offense’s limited to four runs over 27 innings from Wednesday through Saturday. The chance to win this game was blown away when the Blue Jays broke the tie 2–2 with a pair of seventh-inning runs against Minter, who walked or allowed a hit on 21 of the past 51 batters he faced.
Again, this loss cannot be blamed on starting the promotion. It was just a frustrating and sloppy weekend for the Braves. Miscommunication befell Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Alpes when they nearly hit a shallow fly ball by Whit Merrifield that landed to start Toronto’s second inning with three runs.
Pillar, who played in Toronto from 2013-19, also nearly hit second baseman Michael Harris on Matt Chapman’s fly that resulted in a two-base error. Kirby Yates pitched around the foul during a negative seventh.
“There are days here when the roof is open and it can be difficult,” said Pillar. “For a lot of guys who haven’t played here much, you don’t feel much wind at ground level. It’s kind of higher when the ball goes up there. The ball was going all over the place. We made some mistakes, but I don’t think that’s what cost us the game.” .
Acuña gave the Braves an immediate lead with his 28th home run, and Pilar silenced his former fans with a homer to start the fourth. Alpes’s two-run homer off Toronto’s Yosei Kikuchi at third helped him improve his runs against left-handed pitchers to 1.274.
But for the first time this season and for the sixth time since the start of 2022, the Braves have lost a game in which they have played at least three times. The crushing blows came thanks to the game’s final two hits—Brandon Belt’s single hit 60.9 mph and Danny Jansen hit 85.1 mph.
“It was a weird weekend that we’ll forget,” Riley said.
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