ATLANTA -- Arodys Vizcaino has proven he can capably handle the final inning having blown just two of the 17 save opportunities he has been given this season. But in order to truly be considered a reliable closer, the Braves' right-hander will need to prove his health and durability more than he has over the past few weeks.
Though he had not pitched since Sunday, Vizcaino informed the Braves his right shoulder was still sore before Friday night's 10-7, 15-inning loss to the Orioles at SunTrust Park. Because he was unavailable, Dan Winkler was given a save opportunity that fizzled during a six-run ninth that essentially began a battle of endurance.
Like Winkler was fully accountable after retiring just one of the five batters he faced, Peter Moylan was his own harshest critic after hanging a slider that Manny Machado drilled over the left-field wall for the go-ahead homer. But the game may have evolved much differently had the Braves been able to turn to Vizcaino, who was also unavailable on June 2, when Atlanta took a 14-inning loss to the Nationals.
"[Vizcaino] needed another day," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Hopefully, he'll be ready to go tomorrow. After [Thursday's] off-day, it just wasn't going to work with him tonight."
The Braves tallied just two hits against Alex Cobb before Dansby Swanson tripled and scored on Johan Camargo's game-tying double in the seventh. Chris Davis' fifth-inning, opposite-field homer off Sean Newcomb accounted for the Orioles' only run until they battered Winkler and Sam Freeman during the six-run ninth that erased the possibility of Charlie Culberson's two-run, eighth-inning double being a game winner.
"I was pumped Charlie got the big hit," Winkler said. "He should be a hero right now. There was no doubt in my mind we were going to come out a winner. But baseball is baseball, and it didn't work out that way."
Over the past few weeks, Winkler hasn't been nearly as dominant as he was throughout the season's first two months. His bid to notch his first career save quickly turned disastrous as he allowed three hits, including Jonathan Schoop's game-tying double. That prompted the entry of Freeman, who surrendered Davis' go-ahead sacrifice fly and three consecutive two-out run-scoring hits.
"Honestly, I think I just got a little excited to be in the ninth inning," Winkler said. "I've been wanting those opportunities for a while now. I think I was just rushing a little bit and everything was up. In the ninth inning, those guys aren't going to miss pitches in the middle of the plate."
Showing some fight, the Braves battled back to tally four runs in the bottom of the ninth against Zach Britton, who did not retire any of the six batters he faced. The only out recorded while he was pitching came when Freddie Freeman was thrown out attempting to score from first base on former Oriole Nick Markakis' game-tying double.
Shane Carle and Jesse Biddle combined to provide the Braves five scoreless innings before Moylan exited the bullpen as the last healthy available reliever. The 39-year-old veteran hit Craig Gentry with a pitch and nearly hit Austin Wynns as he followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt. His command issues continued when he hung the slider Machado connected on.
"We played 15 innings and I couldn't control anything really," Moylan said. "It was just a frustrating inning. I'm way better than that and this team deserved a lot better effort than that."
Moylan entered the game having allowed left-handed hitters to compile a .292 batting average and an .868 OPS in 31 plate appearances. Right-handed hitters had hit .302 with an .802 OPS in 73 plate appearances.
With first base open and left-handed hitter Colby Rasmus on deck, Snitker opted not to intentionally walk the always-dangerous Machado.
"I brought him in hoping [Moylan] could get those right-handers," Snitker said. "You hate like hell that one of them is [Machado]. But if you walk him and the next lefty lines one down [the line]... He's tough on right-handers. He has a tough time with left-handed hitters. We'd have probably walked one of the two left-handers if we could have got Machado to chase. But we couldn't."
Nor could the Braves exit this loss without what might have happened had Vizcaino been available.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Freeman had to momentarily freeze to make sure Markakis' ninth-inning double got over Jace Peterson's head in right field. Still with no outs, he aggressively tried to score and came up empty when Peterson and Jonathan Schoop combined to complete a relay that easily beat the Braves' first baseman to the plate.
"You make them make a play," Snitker said. "When I saw [the throw], I was just hoping maybe it would short hop [Joseph]. They made the play. The outfielder got it to him and the second baseman made a good throw."
After ending up at third base on his game-tying double, Markakis was left stranded when Darren O'Day struck out Tyler Flowers and got Dansby Swanson to fly out to right field.
"We had our opportunities but just couldn't get the big hit," Snitker said.
Entering Friday, Britton had allowed one hit over his first 4 1/3 innings since returning this month from offseason right Achilles surgery.
Winkler posted an 0.74 ERA and limited opponents to a .122 (10-for-82) batting average over the 24 1/3 innings he completed through June 3. The right-handed reliever has since allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs in the 5 1/3 frames since.
"I've been putting too much pressure on myself," Winkler said. "I've been getting caught up with stuff I can't control. I've just got to go back to the basics and making pitches. I've just been trying to do too much."
HE SAID IT
"Extra-inning games is part of what we do. I was ready to come in the game. I felt good in the bullpen. I felt OK out there. Then everything just seemed to fall apart." -- Moylan
Julio Teheran takes the mound when the Braves and Orioles resume their series at 4:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. Teheran's fastball velocity was back to normal when he ended a short disabled list stint and promptly completed six no-hit innings against the Mets but exited with a right hamstring cramp. Baltimore will counter with Dylan Bundy, who has completed at least seven scoreless innings in two of his past three starts.