'Strange things' spell rare consecutive losses for Braves

Runs accumulate in odd fashion, then lefty-on-lefty homer off Minter seals game

July 26th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Perhaps it should have been obvious that things weren't going to go the Braves' way on Monday night when what should have been a routine inning-ending chopper to first base instead took a sharp turn past the first-base bag for a two-run double in the second inning.

And that somehow wasn't the strangest part of Atlanta’s 6-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

“It had a weird feel to it all night, just the way things were transpiring,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Just a strange, strange game.”

On a night when the Braves scored all four of their runs on balls that didn't leave the infield, left-handed reliever A.J. Minter gave up a decisive three-run home run to left-handed-hitting rookie shortstop Bryson Stott. That was only the second home run Minter has given up to a lefty in 334 career plate appearances.

"That really was a weird game," Snitker said, once again going back to a word that would come up repeatedly in his postgame press conference. "Just some weird-hit balls, how the runs scored -- a lot of strange things happened in that game."

It all started in the top of the second inning when Michael Harris II stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in a scoreless game. His routine grounder was fielded by third baseman Johan Camargo, but Camargo’s throw sailed past first baseman Rhys Hoskins -- who appeared to cross up his footing on the play -- to allow two runs to score. The Braves added another run moments later on a wild pitch from Ranger Suárez.

It didn't take long for things to balance out.

With two on and two outs in the bottom half, Stott hit a high chopper toward first baseman Matt Olson, who won an American League Gold Glove Award in 2018 and '19. Yet on its final hop in front of Olson, the ball skidded to the right and into foul territory up the right-field line.

All Braves starter Max Fried could do was watch as two runs raced home.

"He was right in front of it and all of a sudden, it just took a hard right," Fried said. "It's unfortunate. It's baseball. You can't expect or script those things."

Fried allowed another run in the third on J.T. Realmuto’s RBI single, but he limited the damage to those three runs while striking out eight and walking none over six innings. Fried departed in line for the win, thanks to Marcell Ozuna legging out an RBI infield single on a slow roller up the third-base line in the sixth.

"I don't know that we should have scored any runs, and they should have maybe scored only one off [Fried]," Snitker said. "But that's the way it goes."

Atlanta's 4-3 lead held up until the bottom of the eighth, when Minter left a 3-2 cutter over the plate with two on and two outs. Stott made him pay, depositing it into the right-center-field seats for only the second homer by a left-handed hitter off Minter. Strangely enough, the other was also hit by a Phillie at Citizens Bank Park (Corey Dickerson on Sept. 10, 2019).

"If I had to go back and do it all over again, I'd do the same thing. Like you said, I usually do pretty good against lefties," Minter said. "I felt bad for Max and the team tonight to lose this game."

"That added to the strangeness of the game," Snitker said of the rare home run.

For the Braves, it marked the first time they've lost back-to-back games since June 17-18 -- and it took all of those bad breaks and unfortunate hops to make it happen.

"For us to do that for that long, it's impressive," Fried said. "We're still, obviously, a very confident bunch in here. We played a good hard game tonight, and a couple pitches changed the course of the game. We're excited to get back out here tomorrow and try to win again."

Though it’s never easy losing a game -- much less one started by your ace and in such dramatic fashion against a rival on the road -- the Braves (58-40) still find themselves only two games back of the first-place Mets (59-37). They’re also seven games clear of the Phillies (50-46), who are the first team on the outside looking in when it comes to the NL Wild Card race.

"We win these types of games nine times out of 10, but that's why you play this game, because everything does not go your way,” Minter said. “We've been playing such good baseball. This one game is not going to do anything to us. It's not going to faze us."