LOS ANGELES -- Braves manager Brian Snitker has frequently said if you prove accountable while weathering the storm during a rough stretch, there is often a reward on the other side. He should at least feel fortunate his team will not come back to this side of the country any
LOS ANGELES -- Braves manager Brian Snitker has frequently said if you prove accountable while weathering the storm during a rough stretch, there is often a reward on the other side. He should at least feel fortunate his team will not come back to this side of the country any time soon.
Provided a chance to salvage what proved to be another frustrating West Coast trip, the Braves handed the ball to their top starting pitcher on Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. But instead of delivering a gem, Sean Newcomb struggled through a third inning that proved decisive in a 7-2 loss to the Dodgers.
While losing four of six during this trip that began in San Diego, the Braves fell to 29-64 in road games against National League West teams dating back to the start of 2013. But they remain in a tight battle with the Nationals atop the NL East and now will enter a week during which Mike Soroka, Julio Teheran and Ronald Acuna Jr. could all return from the disabled list.
"We had a little stretch here for a week, where it could have been worse and it could have been better," Snitker said. "A win would have been nice. But it was just one of those games. We'll go back home and hopefully start something."
Newcomb's latest bid to enhance what remain strong All-Star credentials began to fade when his 44-inning homerless streak ended with John Forsythe opening the three-run third by sending a first-pitch fastball into the left field seats. This mistake proved to be a valuable learning experience for the young southpaw.
"That whole inning I thought was the end of Newcomb," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "We stressed him the whole inning. He's a good young arm and it was good to see Logan put the good swing on him, as well as Muncy."
Newcomb certainly took notice of the mistake he made to Forsythe, who entered the game having swung at just three of the 119 first pitches he had seen all year.
"Looking back at it, there's a lot to learn from it, like leaving a fastball down the middle to a good hitter like Forsythe with the first pitch," Newcomb said. "He typically takes the first pitch, but I served it up to him, so he deserved to hit that out. It's just a lot of things I can take from this start and learn from."
Once Peter Moylan allowed an inherited runner to score on Forsythe's sixth-inning double, Newcomb found himself with a line that consisted of five earned runs allowed over 5 1/3 innings. He has struggled on the road against the Red Sox and Dodgers in two of his past four starts, but still has a respectable 2.92 ERA through 13 starts.
"I'll do everything I can to not let it happen again," Newcomb said. "I'll take away the positives and move forward."
Falling victim to the Dodgers' power certainly does not create reason to be ashamed. Enrique Hernandez's seventh-inning solo shot off Luiz Gohara gave Los Angeles 26 homers through the first nine games of June. Nine of those were tallied within this three-game set against the Braves.
Thomas Stripling, who, like Newcomb, has been one of the game's top starting pitchers this season, limited the Braves to two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings. His damage was limited to the solo home runs Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman hit during the fourth inning. Stripling has a 1.30 ERA over his past seven starts.
"He's good," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "That's a legit curveball. It's got some bite and his fastball plays up. He seemed to have pretty good command of all his pitches. He made for some tough at-bats."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Adding on: Released by the A's at the start of the 2017 season, Dodgers third baseman Player Page for Max Muncy caught the attention of the Braves as he hit three of his 12 homers within this series. His fifth-inning solo shot provided comfort, but the one-out walk he drew to load the bases in the third may have been a more influential plate appearance. Matt Kemp and Hernandez followed the walk with consecutive singles to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead against Newcomb, who then ended the 33-pitch frame with consecutive strikeouts of Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger.
"Muncy doesn't expand the [strike] zone at all," Snitker said. "He just has such discipline and patience at the plate. I'm impressed. You go back and see where the guy fought his way through the ranks and he's getting an opportunity now and making the most of it."
STARTS AT THE TOP
With Ender Inciarte hitting .167 with a .235 on-base percentage over his past 20 games and Albies hitting .179 with a .229 OBP over his past 18 games, the Braves have not had a good option to place at the top of their lineup over the past few weeks.
But Albies might have turned the tide during Sunday's two-hit performance that began with the fourth-inning homer off Stripling. Before drilling a 3-2 fastball over the right-center-field wall, he encouraged Snitker by not swinging at a 1-2 curveball headed for the dirt.
"Just the take he had in the count was huge," Snitker said. "That's the one he's been chasing and getting a checked swing on. I thought that was going to be a really good at-bat if he drew a walk and then he hit a homer. Then, he had a really good swing on a breaking ball that he was all over the next at-bat. Then he got a single [in his last at-bat]. Those are the kinds of things we talk about with his growth and development."
Hernandez's seventh-inning solo shot off Gohara made the Dodgers the first team since the Red Sox (June 16-18, 2007) to total nine homers against the Braves during a three-game series. This stands as the highest total Atlanta's pitching staff has allowed in a three-game set since the Reds belted 10 home runs (July 2-4,1977).
HE SAID IT
"It's unfortunate timing to play them. That's not the first team we've run into like that. It goes back to executing pitches. You go back to every hard-hit ball and where we were trying to go with it, they were mistakes. When teams are hot, they hit those hard." -- Flowers
"These guys [Atlanta] came out aggressively today anyway. His pitch count was low from the beginning. The one inning got him a little bit, but he came back and attacked the zone, which was good." -- Roberts, on Stripling
Mike Foltynewicz will take the mound when the Braves return home to face the Mets on Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Foltynewicz has posted a 0.97 ERA and limited opponents to a .167 batting average over his past six starts. This will be his first start of the year against the Mets, who will start Jason Vargas. Vargas has struggled this year, but he allowed two hits over five scoreless innings against Atlanta on May 30.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.