ATLANTA -- Instead of fittingly capping what could prove to be a season-altering day, the Braves were instead reminded they have the potential to get healthier and much stronger over the next couple weeks.
Austin Riley homered for a fourth straight day, and Adam Duvall made a couple of key contributions as he reunited with his Atlanta teammates on Friday night at Truist Park. But a four-run first inning against NL Cy Young Award candidate Corbin Burnes didn’t create enough cushion to compensate for Touki Toussaint’s struggles in the Braves’ 9-5 loss to the Brewers.
“Today is over with,” Toussaint said. “I can’t control it, and I can’t look in the past. So, tomorrow we go back out there and attack the day.”
Riley’s two-run homer in the first added to the excitement the Braves generated by acquiring Duvall and three other proven veterans before Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. But instead of building on his recent success, Toussaint surrendered a pair of homers before being pulled with two outs in the fourth.
So, instead of taking advantage of Burnes’ worst start of the season, the Braves blew a prime opportunity to win two consecutive games for the first time since the All-Star break. But the immediate damage wasn’t significant. They remained four games back in the National League East as the Mets and Phillies also lost.
“We still have a chance,” Toussaint said. “This was a tough loss. Hopefully, tomorrow we come back out and get a win.”
Showing their desire to claim a fourth consecutive division crown, the Braves acquired right-handed reliever Richard Rodríguez and three outfielders -- Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario and Duvall -- via trades completed on Friday.
Duvall was the only member of this group to arrive in time to play in Friday’s game. Playing his first game for the Braves since straining his left oblique in Game 1 of the 2020 NL Championship Series, the veteran outfielder tallied an RBI single in the fifth and denied Eduardo Escobar’s bid to score with a strong throw to the plate in the fourth.
“It’s good to have Adam back,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He throws a guy out, gets an RBI. I was really happy to see him walk through those clubhouse doors.”
Duvall’s contributions weren’t enough to save Toussaint, who allowed seven runs and six hits over 3 1/3 innings. The young right-hander had allowed just two runs while completing 13 2/3 innings over the two previous starts he made this year. But as he surrendered homers to Avisaíl García and Willy Adames, he provided the reminder he is far from a finished product.
García’s three-run shot and Adames’ two-run blast were both hit against 3-2 pitches. “You try to take the positive from it,” Toussaint said. “It happened. I’ve got to make a better pitch with the 3-2 count to both. So, yeah, I think those two pitches could go either way.”
Toussaint was brought to the Majors to help compensate for the absence of Ian Anderson, who is currently working his way back from the inflamed right shoulder that he developed just before the All-Star break.
Once Anderson returns within the next couple weeks, Toussaint could remain in what would be a six-man rotation. Another rotation candidate is Huascar Ynoa, who also could be ready to serve as a starter or reliever within the next couple of weeks.
“[Toussaint’s] command wasn’t as good,” Snitker said. “The previous two [starts] he was throwing a lot of strikes. His fastball was leaking, and he just wasn’t as sharp. He was kind of off kilter. It happens. Hopefully, he bounces back, uses this and gets back to where he was the last two starts.”
The Braves’ offense will be upgraded by the additions of Soler and Rosario, who is currently on the injured list with a right abdominal strain. Rosario could be activated within the next two weeks, shortly after the expected return of veteran catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
Riley has been one of the game’s hottest hitters while homering seven times within his past eight games. His 22nd homer was the two-run shot against Burnes, who entered having allowed just four runs over his past five starts combined.
The Braves attempted to rally when Freddie Freeman and Riley drew consecutive walks to begin the bottom of the fifth. Freeman scored on Duvall’s single. But Riley was thrown out when he made the unwise decision to tag and try to reach third base on Stephen Vogt’s one-out fly ball to center.
Riley likely would have been safe had Jackie Bradley’s throw not brought Escobar off third base to catch and simultaneously tag the sliding Braves slugger. With that said, it’s never wise to make the third out at third. But with Guillermo Heredia and the pitcher’s spot due up, maybe it was a good time to gamble.
“The throw was so bad, it got him,” Snitker said. “I never thought [he shouldn’t have tagged]. It wasn’t like the guy was standing there waiting on him with the ball.”