BOSTON -- As the first four games of this road trip have elapsed, the thrill of Sunday's improbable ninth-inning comeback has become a distant memory. The Braves have managed to keep their slim lead in the National League East race. But their bid to maintain this advantage will depend on
BOSTON -- As the first four games of this road trip have elapsed, the thrill of Sunday's improbable ninth-inning comeback has become a distant memory. The Braves have managed to keep their slim lead in the National League East race. But their bid to maintain this advantage will depend on how long their current offensive woes persist.
Nick Markakis prevented the Braves from being shut out for the third time in four games and fourth time within the past seven games. But his two-run double was not enough to overcome the long-ball damage Julio Teheran and Matt Wisler endured during Friday night's 6-2 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
"We're going to go through that," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's not going to be the last time that it happens. We've just got to keep grinding and show up tomorrow and have a good stretch. We've run into some really good pitching, too."
All seemed to be right for the Braves when they erased a five-run deficit with the six-run ninth inning tallied against the Marlins. But they have since lost three of four, including two of three to the Phillies, who sit just a half-game back in the NL East race. The Mets and Nationals, who both sit within three games of the division lead, will visit Atlanta after the Braves conclude this three-game set against the Red Sox, who own MLB's best record.
• Acuna, Markakis swap positions vs. Boston
It looks like the Braves might avoid Max Scherzer when the Nationals come to town next weekend. But they'll likely see both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom during the four-game set against the Mets. Oh, and Chris Sale will serve as the opposition during Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox.
This isn't necessarily good news for the Braves, who have scored a run in just four of the first 36 innings of this trip. But it must be remembered, this is the same bunch that entered this trip averaging 5.4 runs per game.
"It's always going to be important to win, it doesn't matter against who," Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. "Of course, it's important to win these next few games. But it's a long season. It's a lot of games. We're going to go through a lot of good stretches and some tough ones."
Facing Eduardo Rodriguez in this series opener seemed like a good draw for the Braves, who entered the game leading the Majors in batting average and slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers. It appeared they might have found a groove when they opened the third inning with three consecutive hits, including Markakis' two-run double off the Green Monster.
But Rodriguez then proceeded to keep the Braves hitless and retire 11 of the final 13 batters he faced during his 5 2/3-inning stint. As the southpaw found his groove, Teheran paid for the hanging offspeed pitches he delivered to J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts in the fourth inning. Martinez opened the frame with his 16th home run, and Bogaerts took advantage of a room-service slider as he tied the game with a solo shot of his own.
The Red Sox gained a lead they wouldn't relinquish when Jackie Bradley Jr. tripled and scored on Andrew Benintendi's sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Teheran surrendered four hits and three runs over six innings. The Braves right-hander allowed two homers while posting a 1.54 ERA over six starts from April 9-May 9. But he has now surrendered five homers over his past three starts.
"When I make a mistake, I feel like it's a homer," Teheran said. "It's not a base hit or a double. It's something I don't think about. I just go out there and try to throw my pitches without thinking about it, because when you think about giving up a homer, that's when you give up more."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
There was further reason to question the quality depth within the Braves' bullpen when Snitker decided Wisler was his best option to bring into a one-run game in the seventh inning. Mookie Betts drilled his Major League-leading 17th homer -- a two-run shot -- off Wisler, and Mitch Moreland tagged the right-handed reliever for a solo shot in the eighth.
The Braves will play again Saturday afternoon, and the Monday doubleheader looms. Snitker also said he wanted to protect against overusing Shane Carle and Dan Winkler, a couple of right-handed rookies who have arguably been the team's best relievers. But with Peter Moylan available, there was still reason to question why Wisler was deemed the best option.
"I wanted to give [Wisler] that opportunity, and I just didn't want to use Winkler and those guys we use when we're ahead," Snitker said. "We might win the next two games. I just feel like I've got to be careful with those guys. They've had a lot of work, and they're all first-year Major League bullpen guys. Some other guys are going to have to carry the load a little bit, because you can't keep going to those guys in a one-run game."
After Markakis helped improve his impressive batting average against left-handed pitchers with his two-run double that scored a hustling Freddie Freeman from first base, Kurt Suzuki struck out. Rodriguez then induced consecutive groundouts against Inciarte and Tyler Flowers.
The Braves have gone 4-for-28 with runners in scoring position during the trip. After going 4-for-4 in these situations during Sunday's ninth inning, they hit the road batting .301 with RISP.
"We've had some pitches to hit, and we haven't been able to take advantage," Inciarte said. "Sometimes, it's going to go for us and sometimes it's going to go for them. We'll keep trying our best and keep working on our approach."
HE SAID IT
"As soon as I threw the ball, I knew it wasn't the best slider. One of those was a slider I didn't want to miss with a 3-1 count. You want to throw it for a strike. It ended up in the middle. Whenever you miss middle here, you pay for it, especially here." -- Teheran, on the near-instant reaction he made to the slider Bogaerts belted for a home run
Sean Newcomb will experience a thrill when he takes the mound for the Braves during Saturday afternoon's game against the Red Sox at 1:05 ET. The Boston-area native will be starting at Fenway Park for the first time. He has displayed an effective changeup while posting a 1.68 ERA over his past eight starts. Boston will counter with Thomas Pomeranz, who has completed less than five innings in three of his six starts, including both of the past two.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.