Gausman K’s 10, Biddle scuffles in 10th

Reliever walks three after error; McCann doubles in return from injured list

April 18th, 2019

ATLANTA -- Following Wednesday night’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to the D-backs at SunTrust Park, Braves manager Brian Snitker did not hesitate when he was asked if 's recent struggles are more mental than physical.

“It’s a mental thing,” Snitker said. “It absolutely is. Against right-handers, it’s fine. But it’s like we said the other day, you’ve just got to get the ball over the plate better.”

Dating back to last season, when Biddle would often work on throws to first base long before the stadium gates would open, scouts and opposing teams knew he had the “yips”, or, more precisely, trouble fielding his position. Thus, the D-backs knew what they were doing when speedy pinch-hitter Tim Locastro attempted to bunt for a base hit with one out and nobody on in the 10th.

“It’s known that he doesn’t like to throw the ball to bases,” D-backs outfielder Adam Jones said. “With Locastro, I never got to see him really, really run. Man, he can fly. He made something happen.”

Biddle fielded Locastro’s bunt and then uncorked a throw that went down the right-field line, resulting in an error. Jarrod Dyson followed with a four-pitch walk and David Peralta drew a five-pitch walk with two outs. This set the stage for Jones, who did not swing the bat in the process of drawing the decisive, bases-loaded six-pitch walk.

This is not the kind of outing Biddle ever wants to experience, especially one day after responding to his struggles during Tuesday’s bullpen letdown by saying, “I can promise you we’re not going to let it happen again.”

“I feel a lot of things,” Biddle said. “I’m going to want the ball tomorrow. I let the team down tonight. They fought hard tonight, and I just didn’t pick them up when I had a chance.”

Biddle has issued four walks, surrendered a two-run single and committed a costly error en route to retiring just two of the eight batters faced over the past two games. The left-handed reliever may rest during Thursday afternoon’s series finale, but until the Braves commit to using some of their starting pitching prospects as relievers, there aren’t many backup options for an injury-depleted bullpen.

“It’s something [Biddle] is going to have to work through,” Snitker said. “He’s going to have to take a blow every now and then and get out there and work his way through it. He’s going to have to believe in himself and turn the things loose and attack the hitters and not try to throw strikes. You’ve got to trust that baseball guy inside you to take care of the rest, instead of trying to do too much.”

It looked like a potential night of redemption for the Braves’ bullpen, as the reliable worked the eighth without a blemish and closer , who allowed Tuesday’s game-winning homer, tossed a scoreless ninth. Their contributions backed the strong seven innings completed by , who allowed three hits and two runs while matching a career-high 10 strikeouts.

Gausman’s average four-seam velocity (94.3 mph) was the second-highest he’s produced since joining the Braves. The lone hit he surrendered through the first six innings came courtesy of former Orioles teammate Jones. Gausman threw a first-pitch splitter to the bottom of the zone, and Jones drilled it over the left-field wall. Then Ketel Marte’s game-tying double with two outs in the seventh erased the lead Atlanta gained with the two-run, second-inning double by , which he recorded in his first plate appearance back from the injured list.

“If we keep getting starting pitching like this, everything else will work itself out,” Snitker said.

With done for the season, likely to remain on the injured list for a few more weeks and taking what may be a short hiatus, the Braves have to hope Biddle and some of their other struggling and inexperienced relievers turn things around in a hurry.

“We’ve seen Biddle really, really good, and he’ll get it back again,” Snitker said. “He’s just going through a tough time right now.”