After Acuna's homer, Braves can't hold late lead

Vizcaino's rough night brings closer duties into question in Atlanta

May 15th, 2018

ATLANTA -- 's inability to preserve the value of 's most recent memorable contribution won't prevent him from continuing to serve as the Braves' primary closer. But there's a chance he will now share the closing role with both and Dan Winkler.

After the Cubs tallied a two-run ninth and claimed a 3-2 win on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park, Braves manager Brian Snitker was asked whether he would handle future ninth-inning leads differently or continue to use workload and matchups to determine whether to use Vizcaino or Minter as his closer.

"It just depends on who is rested more," Snitker said. "I feel good, if we wanted to keep them all somewhat healthy and fresh, Winkler could probably fit right in that role, too. We have a few options."

Vizcaino stands as the only option with more than a fraction of experience, and he has blown just two of nine save opportunities this season. But as the veteran right-hander allowed the Cubs to erase a one-run, ninth-inning deficit that came courtesy of Acuna Jr.'s two-out solo homer in the eighth, he continued to trend in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

Acuna provided the Braves hope when he drilled his two-out, eighth-inning homer off right-hander The solo shot, which traveled a projected 432 feet to dead center field, was the 20-year-old phenom's fourth career home run, but the first he has hit in Atlanta.

Albert Almora Jr. and quickly erased the Cubs' deficit by notching consecutive one-out doubles to tie the game in the ninth. then delivered a two-out, game-winning single against Vizcaino, who has allowed eight hits -- including 's mammoth home run in Sunday's non-save situation -- and four earned runs over four innings this month.

Minter has been considered the "closer-in-waiting" since the start of Spring Training, and he has successfully converted his two save opportunities. But the young left-hander with just 35 career appearances has battled inconsistency of his own, allowing eight hits and issuing four walks over his past 5 2/3 innings.

As Minter closed out Monday's makeup game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, he impressed with a fastball that touched 99.1 mph. But he wasn't necessarily dominant, as he surrendered a run before escaping a bases-loaded jam with 's game-ending flyout to left field.

Winkler struck out the only two batters he faced during Tuesday's eighth inning and strengthened the argument that he has been one of the game's most dominant relievers this year. The injury-plagued right-hander who carried Rule 5 Draft limitations from 2014 through the first couple weeks of this season has allowed seven hits, issued five walks and recorded 27 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.

Snitker didn't seem to be seriously thinking about making a change after his team lost for the first time in 23 tries with a ninth-inning lead. But the presence of Minter and Winkler will at least provide options if Vizcaino continues to struggle.

"The best closers in the league, that happens to them," Snitker said. "They come right back the next day and get the save."


Folty's odd outing: Braves starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz showed his dominance as he recorded 10 strikeouts over five innings. He also issued five walks. But fitting the zany narrative of this game, the lone run he surrendered came after his fourth-inning strikeout of Russell. scored from second base when the two-strike slider got to the backstop before retrieved it and then made an errant throw to first base.


Snitker was furious when a replay review did not overturn the out call made when attempted to score on a wild pitch during the fifth inning. The replay showed Camargo's right hand might have touched the plate just ahead of pitcher Mike Montgomery's tag. When the call stood, plate umpire Jim Wolf allowed Snitker to briefly express his frustration from the dugout without issuing an ejection.

Because the Braves had used their challenge, they could not ask for another review moments later when third-base umpire Sam Holbrook ruled Charlie Culberson out attempting to steal third.

"Usually the explanation is what you see on the board," Snitker said. "There wasn't enough evidence to overturn it, I guess."


Freddie Freeman successfully scored from first base when placed a two-out single in left field during the first inning of Sunday's win over the Marlins. But his attempt to complete another crazy dash Tuesday was denied when he was thrown out attempting to score on an errant throw made as he stole second base in the first inning.

When Contreras' throw hit Freeman and went toward left field, the Braves first baseman went toward third and never stopped, as third base coach Ron Washington signaled for him to race toward the plate. Washington's gamble against 's arm busted when the Cubs left fielder's throw was caught by Contreras just above a sliding Freeman's foot, inches from the plate.

"I don't think with any of the baserunning plays, I'd want the guys to do anything different than what they did," Snitker said. "It took perfect throws."


's fourth-inning solo homer off was his third homer in a span of 12 at-bats. He had one homer in his previous 157 at-bats.


Inciarte will be looking to homer for the fourth time in five games when Braves right-hander opposes Cubs righty on Wednesday at 7:35 p.m. ET. McCarthy has allowed at least 11 hits in each of his past two starts.