ATLANTA -- Sam Gaviglio's early struggles in the Blue Jays' 9-5 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park on Wednesday night began and ended with pitch count and execution.The damage to the Toronto starter was done early, when the Braves' offense strung together five consecutive RBIs, three of which came
ATLANTA -- Sam Gaviglio's early struggles in the Blue Jays' 9-5 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park on Wednesday night began and ended with pitch count and execution.
The damage to the Toronto starter was done early, when the Braves' offense strung together five consecutive RBIs, three of which came from All-Star selections Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis, and scored six in the bottom of the second inning.
"[Gaviglio's] not an overpowering guy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, "but when that breaking ball isn't that sharp or he isn't hitting his good spots with his fastball, that's when he gets hit."
A rough stretch of starts for the Blue Jays' right-hander continued against the Braves. Recently, Gaviglio has struggled to show any type of depth on the mound, failing to complete five innings in all but one of his last six starts.
Gaviglio has continually accumulated a high number of pitches in early innings. Against the Braves, he tossed 48 pitches in 1 2/3 innings. This comes after he threw more than 101 pitches in 4 1/3 innings against the Yankees on Friday.
In Gaviglio's shortest start of the season, he gave up six runs on six hits, facing 14 batters before being replaced by Jake Petricka.
"I think I threw a little too many pitches there in the second inning and started to get a little tired," Gaviglio said. "Next time I need to come out and make better adjustments."
Adjustments that both he and Gibbons said start with locating his fastballs.
"I have to get my fastball," Gaviglio said. "I think that's the pitch that I need to have. Obviously as a starter, [I need to] throw to both sides of the plate, which I didn't do tonight. I was a little up in the zone and it didn't help me out."
Despite a seventh-inning rally, which included a leadoff home run from Justin Smoak and a grand slam from Devon Travis, the early six-run deficit was too much to overcome.
Gaviglio has not won a game since May 25, but the Blue Jays had hit behind him in his recent starts. Toronto won in each of Gaviglio's last four starts in which he relinquished two runs or more, but the trend didn't continue in Atlanta, especially after Albies launched home runs in the sixth and eighth innings to give the Braves a trio of insurance runs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Blue Jays set up Braves' explosive inning: With runners on first and third with one out and Braves' starter Mike Foltynewicz up to bat in the second inning, the Blue Jays had a chance to halt the Braves' onslaught. Foltynewicz laid down a slow rolling bunt as Johan Camargo raced for the plate. Smoak fielded the bunt and flipped it to Luke Maile at home. The throw came just a little too late, as Camargo gave the Braves the lead, but an errant throw from Maile to first, in an attempt to get Foltynewicz out, flew out to shallow right field to set up the Braves' run of RBI hits.
"We aren't used to seeing a lot of bunting in the American League, but if you take that out at first base, who knows what happens?" Gibbons said. "[Smoak] thought he had a play."
The Blue Jays are no strangers to the art of stringing consecutive runs together in one inning. Wednesday was the 11th time this season Toronto put together a five-run inning. Six of the 11 have come in the seventh inning or later.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Pinch-hitting in the top of the seventh inning with bases loaded, Travis launched a 1-1 slider 399 feet into right-center field for a grand slam. It was the third of his career and was the fifth grand slam by a Blue Jays batter.
"I knew it had a chance, but I wasn't completely sure," Travis said. "You are never too sure when you hit it the other way. I was dang happy it did go over."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Braves had a chance to extend their lead in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with two outs, but the Blue Jays challenged after center fielder Danny Santana hit a slow rolling ground ball back to reliever Tim Mayza, who made the quick throw to first. First-base umpire Sean Barber called Santana safe at first, allowing a Braves run to score. Upon review Santana was ruled out and the inning turned over without any more damage.
The Blue Jays will make one final stop on the way to the All-Star break with the first game of a four-game set against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Boston took two of three games from the Blue Jays in Toronto in May. J.A. Happ will take the mound for the Blue Jays while the Red Sox will counter with fellow lefty David Price, who has a career record of 19-3 against Toronto.
Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.