Atlanta began the week at home after a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics. Their opponent to begin the week was no Oakland. It was the Houston Astros, holder of the MLB’s best record, and one of the fiercest lineups in MLB history.
From the opening innings, the Astros showed why they were the best team in baseball. They made rookie Sean Newcomb, who had four quality starts in his first four major league starts, come back to earth a little, as they shredded him for 7 earned runs in just 3.1 innings. The Braves would never recover in what ended in a dreadful 16-4 loss.
The second and final game of the series did not go much better. Houston was able to jump out to 4-0 lead once again, however, this time the Braves had an answer, posting four runs in the fifth inning to tie the game up. That would end up being the only good news for Atlanta, as the Astros scored three runs in both the seventh and eighth innings on their way to 10-4 win and their second series sweep of the Braves.
The two losses put the Braves 9.5 games back of the Nats for first place in the NL East. They would head to Washington for their final four game series before the all-star break.
The opener got off to quite a strange start. The game was delayed for over three hours, but there was no rain. A huge mess of the game was made by the Nationals organization, though it did not help them in the long run. The Braves were all over Gio Gonzalez, as they would go on to win 5-2 behind Mike Foltynewicz.
Friday’s night game will be the one the Braves will be looking back on during the All-Star break. Atlanta put together tough at bat after tough at bat against Max Scherzer, breaking through for four runs over eight innings. R.A Dickey pitched fantastic once again, allowing just a single run over seven innings. But the Braves bullpen could not get the job done. Jim Johnson entered the game in the ninth looking to close the game, but Bryce Harper and the Nationals had a different plan. The heart of the Washington lineup strung together four hits against Johnson and eventually knot the game up at four. Daniel Murphy would send the Braves home in the 10th with a walk-off double.
Worries about a hangover from that loss were quickly erased, as the Braves jumped all over Stephen Strasburg in the third game of the series. He would exit the game after three innings down 6-0. Atlanta would keep adding onto that lead, and Julio Teheran pitched a gem over seven innings. He allowed no runs, as the Braves would go on to shutout the Nationals in a 13-0 win. It was the first time all season Washington had been shut out.
Newcomb was on the mound once again in what seemed like a must win. However, poor control would lead to three first inning runs for Washington. The Braves would answer back in the third behind Freddie Freeman’s power bat. He tied the game up with a blast over the left-center field wall. Newcomb would exit the game after four innings, giving up four earned runs. It was a battle of the bullpens from there, and once again, the Braves’ could not come through. Washington would add six more runs in the finals five innings in a 10-5 victory in the series finale.
It capped off what the Braves will look back on as a disappointing series. They had a real chance of taking at least three and maybe even all four from the Nationals. Leaving Washington with a split has to leave a sour taste in their mouths heading into the All-Star break.