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Anibal, Braves stumble in opener vs. Dodgers

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- The argument could be made that the final score wasn't indicative of the quality of Anibal Sanchez's start in an 8-2 loss to the Dodgers at SunTrust Park on Thursday night.

His numbers weren't good, but sometimes numbers can't depict the entire story. Sanchez was taken out after 6 1/3 innings. The veteran right-hander gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits with only four strikeouts.

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ATLANTA -- The argument could be made that the final score wasn't indicative of the quality of Anibal Sanchez's start in an 8-2 loss to the Dodgers at SunTrust Park on Thursday night.

His numbers weren't good, but sometimes numbers can't depict the entire story. Sanchez was taken out after 6 1/3 innings. The veteran right-hander gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits with only four strikeouts.

View Full Game Coverage

But Sanchez's night was riddled with soft contact and defensive miscues that made the difference in at least a couple of runs. A poor relief appearance from Sam Freeman didn't help either.

And while something can be said about Sanchez's unfortunate start, this type of play can't be the foundation of the second half of the season, especially when the National League East-leading Phillies keep winning and four weeks have come and gone without the Braves winning a series.

Cruising through the first four innings, it seemed as though Sanchez and Dodgers starter Rich Hill were caught in a pitchers' duel.

"Today, I definitely felt really good," Sanchez said. "Earlier in the game, we were having a quicker game between Hill and I. … You have to give credit to Hill. I think he threw a really good game against us."

The Dodgers broke up the stalemate in the fifth inning, scoring two runs without getting any solid contact against Sanchez. After former Braves outfielder Matt Kemp led off with a walk, shortstop Charlie Culberson's throwing error on a slow roller by Cody Bellinger left runners on second and third.

An RBI groundout from Chris Taylor scored Kemp, and a bloop hit into shallow left field from Alex Verdugo brought in the Dodgers' second run.

Video: LAD@ATL: Verdugo smacks an RBI single to left field

"My error there, if I make the play and possibly get the out, no runs score, so those two are on me. I take that," Culberson said. "I didn't pick it up behind [Sanchez]."

By the time Sanchez was taken out of the game, the Braves had done very little to get Sanchez out of the 4-0 deficit. Freeman relieved Sanchez but gave up two runs on two hits. The defense continued to struggle throughout the last half of the game, making two more throwing errors before the night ended.

July hasn't been kind to the Braves defensively, as Thursday night marked the third game this month in which the defense had committed three errors.

"Baseball is like that," Sanchez said. "I think those guys, they have played really good all year long, and we still have to play for two more months with the race for the playoffs, but I think we can do it."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
While Culberson put a lot of blame on himself, the fault didn't just fall on him. To kick off what would be a three-run inning for the Dodgers, second baseman Ozzie Albies committed a throwing error that allowed Verdugo to advance to second. Hill brought him in with an RBI single up the middle before Freeman allowed Yasmani Grandal to drive in two runs and give the Dodgers a 6-0 lead.

"We had a rough inning when Anibal came out, too," Snitker said of Freeman's outing. "Hopefully Sam can right the ship. I've seen him do it. He's having a rough go right now, and he's just got to fight his way through it."

Video: LAD@ATL: Grandal laces a 2-run single to left field

SORE STRETCH
It's been a long month for the Braves. Since reaching a season-best 15 games over .500 with a win over the Yankees on July 2, the Braves have gone 5-11. They haven't won a series since sweeping the Cardinals at the end of June, and they've won just four of their last 12 games at SunTrust Park.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Acuna continued his hot streak as he sent a 2-2 slider a Statcast™-projected 436 feet into deep left field to put the Braves on the board in the eighth inning. He is 9-for-20 with eight RBIs in five games since moving to the leadoff spot on Friday.

Video: LAD@ATL: Acuna Jr. smashes a 2-run HR to left-center

HE SAID IT
"We are a good defensive team, and it was a tough game against a good club. You can't make mistakes. You can't give them extra outs. Outs have to be outs, and they weren't." -- Snitker

UP NEXT
Mike Foltynewicz will take the mound for the Braves against the Dodgers at 7:35 p.m. ET on Friday. Though Foltynewicz is having a breakout season, sporting a 2.85 ERA, that number was 2.02 on July 1. The righty is mired in a three-start rut that has seen him give up 14 runs. The Dodgers will counter with ace lefty Clayton Kershaw, who is 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his career against Atlanta.

Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.

Atlanta Braves, Anibal Sanchez