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Albies homers off Thor, but Braves lose in 12

April 20, 2018

ATLANTA -- The first three full weeks of this season have moved the Braves past the point of their rebuild where they might have been satisfied with moral victories. At the same time, they are playing a sport within which a frustrating conclusion doesn't necessarily erase the satisfaction gained from

ATLANTA -- The first three full weeks of this season have moved the Braves past the point of their rebuild where they might have been satisfied with moral victories. At the same time, they are playing a sport within which a frustrating conclusion doesn't necessarily erase the satisfaction gained from all of the game's encouraging events.
Sean Newcomb extended the starting rotation's success and displayed his maturation by matching Noah Syndergaard, despite not having his best stuff. Ozzie Albies added to his early surge in thunderous fashion, and for the most part the bullpen provided another solid effort. But the positive developments didn't necessarily negate the sting that was felt when the Braves dropped a 5-3, 12-inning loss to the Mets shortly after Josh Ravin grazed fellow reliever Robert Gsellman with a pitch on Friday night at SunTrust Park.
"That just can't happen, especially with a pitcher being up there," Ravin said. "Just throw strikes. I paid for it."

Promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett earlier in the day, Ravin escaped a two-on, none-out threat in the 11th inning. But after he nicked Gsellman's jersey with a 1-1 fastball, the right-hander surrendered a go-ahead two-out single to Yoenis Cespedes, who then scored an insurance run on Asdrubal Cabrera's double.
"That was a heckuva ballgame right there," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's a shame we didn't come out on top. But there were a lot of good things again. To face a guy like [Syndergaard] and go toe-to-toe with him, it was an exciting game. It was a fun game."

Provided an early lead courtesy of Albies' first-inning homer off Syndergaard, Newcomb navigated his way through six strong innings, despite having what he considered to be a so-so curveball and an inability to consistently command his changeup. Two of the three runs charged to him were tallied during the third inning, which was highlighted by Amed Rosario's RBI double.
Braves Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder Ender Inciarte grabbed the ball near the wall and rushed a throw that sailed wide of the cutoff man and consequently cost Newcomb at least one run. An accurate throw might have prevented catcher Tomas Nido from scoring on the double by Rosario, who advanced to third on the throwing error and scored on Michael Conforto's sacrifice fly.
"If we'd have hit that [cutoff] guy, we might have had a chance at him," Snitker said. "But it's one of those things. You can't fault guys. They make plays and sometimes, it goes like that."

Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki made a run-preventing diving tag at home plate in the sixth. His game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning prevented Syndergaard from winning for the first time in five career starts against the Braves. The Mets' starter was also victimized by his defense when Jay Bruce misplayed Ryan Flaherty's RBI double in the fourth.

The Braves have seen their starting pitchers post a 2.14 ERA over the past 14 games. More importantly, they have seen the maturation of Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz, who have recently proven they are capable of competing on nights when they don't have their best stuff.
"Overall, there were a lot of good things that happened," Snitker said. "But you just want to win a game like that."
David vs. Goliath: The 5-foot-8 Albies won his battle against the 6-foot-6 Syndergaard when he drilled the right-hander's 99.6-mph fastball into the right-field seats. The 412-foot, first-inning solo shot was his Major League-leading 16th extra-base hit and his sixth homer, making him the first Braves infielder in modern-era history to reach this total by the end of April.
"Just see it and hit it," Albies said. "It felt amazing. It felt like it just exploded off the bat."

Suzuki's tag: The sixth inning began with a replay review that resulted in Cabrera being called out for fan interference that occurred when Nick Markakis tried catching a foul ball down the right-field line. It ended with a review that confirmed Suzuki was successful with his diving tag to prevent Wilmer Flores from scoring from first base on Bruce's double to shallow left field.

Preston Tucker grabbed the ball near the foul line and fired a throw that Suzuki caught just outside the right-handed batter's box before lunging back across the plate to make the tag. More >

Stranding a pair: Suzuki's 11th-inning single put two on with two out for Tucker. But the left fielder, who entered the game tied with Bryce Harper for the National League RBI lead, struck out against Gsellman.
"We had some guys in scoring position," Snitker said. "We had some guys that had some really good at-bats and hit the ball hard. It's just one of those nights where we couldn't pierce a gap and get anything going."

Chipper Jones (1998), Dale Murphy ('85) and Justin Upton (2013) share the Braves' record for most extra-base hits (17) before the end of April. Albies has nine more games to tally the two extra-base hits he needs to surpass that mark.
Before Albies conquered Syndergaard's heater, the fastest pitch hit for a homer this year was the 98.6-mph Arodys Vizcaino fastball the Nationals' Matt Adams belted for a game-tying homer on April 11.
"Having better overall command with everything has helped. When I start missing, I'm able to get back in the zone better. Overall, everything is feeling better as I go." -- Newcomb</p.>
Julio Teheran bids for a second straight strong start when he opposes Jacob deGrom and the Mets tonight at 7:10 p.m. ET. Teheran recorded nine strikeouts -- his highest total since 2016 -- and limited the Phillies to one run over six innings on Monday.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. Listen to his podcast.