PHOENIX -- Kevin Gausman has been one of this year's most valuable Trade Deadline acquisitions and he has the potential to continue pitching like a front-line starter for the Braves the remainder of the season. But his recent run of good fortune was halted during Friday night's 5-3 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field.
As Gausman allowed four earned runs and seven hits over just 4 2/3 innings, D-backs starter Patrick Corbin cruised through six innings that were tarnished by just one run. Johan Camargo recorded three extra-base hits, including a long fourth-inning homer and a double that fueled a two-run eighth. But after their rally fell short, the Braves saw their National League East lead reduced to 2 1/2 games over the Phillies, who beat the Mets on Friday.
"You can have starts like that. It's unfortunate, but it's part of the game," Gausman said. "You're going to have nights where you cruise through eight innings where every ball they hit just happens to be right at guys. You're also going to have starts where you're on the other side of it."
Accounting for the 1.66 ERA Gausman had posted through the six previous starts he'd made since being acquired from the Orioles, these were not necessarily expected results. But given he entered having allowed MLB's sixth-highest Hard-Hit Rate (40.9 percent), he might have been due for one of these nights. Statcast™ quantifies a hard hit to be any ball put in play with an exit velocity of 95+ mph.
"I think it was just one of those days," manager Brian Snitker said. "He didn't really get beat up. But he had to really work and grind. He just wasn't as sharp as he had been. They found some holes. He had to work really hard to get through the game."
Paul Goldschmidt got the D-backs rolling with a first-inning solo shot, one of the three home runs Gausman has surrendered over the 42 2/3 innings completed since joining Atlanta. He has allowed 0.63 home runs per nine innings with the Braves. He had a 1.52 HR/9IP rate with the Orioles.
Though the ERA was impressive, there was at least some reason for skepticism as Gausman's hard-hits allowed rate (43.2) with the Braves was actually higher than the one (40.2) produced this year for the Orioles. His recent success had been influenced by the defensive upgrade he gained via the trade.
Per the Statcast Outs Above Average defensive metric, Braves outfielders entered Friday ranked second with +20 and Orioles outfielders ranked last with -22.
Ronald Acuna Jr. made a diving catch just ahead of Goldschmidt's home run, but the Braves could do little to defend against the four singles the D-backs recorded during a three-run third inning.
"I feel like lately, I've been pretty good," Gausman said. "My misses have been Major League misses. Tonight, I was making some pretty bad misses. I was trying to go away and missing in on a guy. I just wasn't consistent with my offspeed stuff. I didn't throw enough offspeed pitches for strikes and they started eliminating them."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ender Inciarte got his first start against a left-handed pitcher since Adam Duvall was acquired from the Reds. But Inciarte's night proved to be a short one when he was ejected in the fourth inning by home-plate umpire Doug Eddings. As Inciarte expressed displeasure toward third-base umpire Mark Ripperger regarding a check swing ruling, Eddings took off his mask and began the heated discussion that boiled over one pitch later, when the Braves center fielder struck out swinging.
Inciarte's ejection came into focus again in the eighth when Nick Ahmed dropped a potential double play feed, cutting the Braves' deficit to one run and keeping the bases loaded with one out for Duvall, who ended a seven-pitch at-bat by looking at a called strike. Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer was ejected by Eddings for voicing his displeasure toward the well-placed low-and-inside curveball thrown by Brad Ziegler.
"I think the catcher might have made it look worse than it was," Snitker said. "People told me it was probably a strike."
This was the first of Camargo's 10 career three-hit games to include three extra-base hits. His fourth-inning homer off the batter's eye in center field traveled a projected 426 feet, per Statcast™, the third longest home run of his career. He was left stranded after doubling to begin the sixth and then scored Acuna with his eighth-inning double.
Camargo has slashed .352/.418/.556 over his past 28 games and .417/.511/.806 over his past 10 games. The 15 homers he has tallied since May 20, when he became the Braves' everyday third baseman, rank second on the team to Acuna (20).
"He was a highlight real offensively and defensively," Snitker said. "The kid is playing unbelievable. He's really maturing and growing. He's just come so far. He's showing us he's a legit guy."
HE SAID IT
"These first two games have been crazy. Last night was crazy, too. That's a really good club. I saw a lot of them this year and last year and they battle probably as well as any team in baseball down to the last out. It's a grind every night and there's no lead that's safe with them. You've just got just keep pushing, stay aggressive and hopefully come out on top at the end of the night." -- Ziegler, on facing Atlanta
Julio Teheran will take the mound when the Braves and D-backs resume their series Saturday at 8:10 p.m. ET. Teheran's four-seam velocity has been alarmingly down in each of his past three starts, but he was successful in the two starts made against the Pirates over that span. He tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the D-backs on July 15. Arizona will counter with Clay Buchholz, who has a 1.69 ERA over his past eight starts.