ATLANTA -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker progresses through the season's remaining six weeks and attempts to maintain what is currently a slim division lead, he understands he can't lose sight of his responsibility to preserve the durability of a bullpen filled with a number of surgically repaired bodies.With closer
ATLANTA -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker progresses through the season's remaining six weeks and attempts to maintain what is currently a slim division lead, he understands he can't lose sight of his responsibility to preserve the durability of a bullpen filled with a number of surgically repaired bodies.
With closer A.J. Minter being among the three relievers who were unavailable for Thursday night's 5-3 loss to the Rockies at SunTrust Park, Snitker handed a ninth-inning lead to the recently acquired Brad Brach, who was unable to overcome Dansby Swanson's costly error.
While Brach had previously served as the Orioles' closer and was acquired three weeks ago with the expectation that he could provide value on nights like these, this marked another instance where Snitker was willing to at least risk losing the battle in an effort to win a war that won't be decided until the end of September.
"If we don't stick to our guns, we won't have [some relievers] at all," Snitker said. "We're just going to have to get through a game every now and then without those guys."
In winning each of the previous five games, the Braves leaned on some of their top relievers. So Snitker entered this series opener against a fellow postseason contender knowing he could not use Minter, Jonny Venters or Jesse Biddle. Minter and Venters had pitched each of the previous two days. Biddle needed one more day to recover from Tuesday's 32-pitch outing he completed on the second night of back-to-back appearances.
"That is why the bullpen is eight guys deep," Brach said. "You can't just exclude three or four guys a night. Some guys are going to have to pitch innings they're not used to. Whenever I'm given the opportunity to close, I just need to go out there and get us the three outs."
Though he was simply acquired in exchange for international slot money on July 29, Brach was certainly qualified for this challenge. The former All-Star converted 11 of 13 save opportunities for Baltimore this year and had allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings since being acquired by Atlanta.
With the Braves ahead 3-2, Brach was unable to shut the door after Trevor Story opened the ninth with a grounder that Swanson fumbled with a backhand attempt and then made an errant throw to first base.
"It was the right play to make," Swanson said of the backhand. "I just didn't make it. It was pretty simple."
Gerardo Parra followed with a walk, moving Story in position to score on Ryan McMahon's one-out, game-tying RBI single. Brach nearly escaped further damage before surrendering David Dahl's two-out, two-run single.
"I just have to get that last out there and keep the game tied at the worst," Brach said. "It's not on Dansby. Teammates pick each other up. I just wish I could have made one more pitch there and kept the score tied."
Having undergone Tommy John surgery just before being drafted in 2015, Minter was not introduced to routinely making back-to-back appearances until this year. Venters' story is well known as he has undergone the procedure 3 1/2 times. The Braves have also been very careful with Biddle, giving him a couple of days to rest following consecutive or multi-inning appearances.
"We had won five in row, and it takes its toll," Snitker said. "There are some guys down there that have been put back together. There are just going to have to be some nights where we survive without those guys if we are going to continue to get the most out of them throughout the rest of the season."
TEHERAN ENCOURAGING AGAIN
Braves starter Julio Teheran limited the Rockies to two runs and three hits over seven innings -- his longest outing since May 30. His two-out RBI single off Jon Gray positioned him for a win until the lead was lost in the ninth.
Having gained a more consistent feel for his slider, Teheran has posted a 3.42 ERA over his past four starts. His most costly mistake in this latest outing came courtesy of the third-inning leadoff homer Dahl drilled over the right-center-field wall.
"I was just really pleased with the pitching performance," Snitker said. "He got it going. ... We can't seem to get him a three- or four-run lead."
SWANSON DELIVERS ANOTHER TIMELY HIT
Before committing the costly error in the ninth, Swanson followed Kurt Suzuki's double with one of his own to tie the game in the fifth. The shortstop has batted just .207 dating back to June 6, but in each of the past three games he has produced a hit that has either tied the contest or given the Braves a lead in the fifth inning or later.
Approximately 24 hours after exiting Wednesday's game against the Marlins when he was hit near the left elbow with Jose Urena's fastball, Ronald Acuna Jr. was back in the leadoff spot for the Braves. The 20-year-old outfielder singled and stole a base in the first inning, but he went hitless in his final three at-bats. He was bidding to become the first player in Braves history to homer in six consecutive games. More >
Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb will attempt to rebound when he faces the Rockies at 7:35 p.m. ET on Friday. Newcomb allowed a season-high 12 hits and lasted just four innings before Atlanta's offense picked him up in Sunday's win over the Brewers. Colorado will counter with Kyle Freeland, who has a 2.26 ERA over his past 11 starts.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.