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Rotation concerns arise as Braves drop finale

MLB.com @mlbbowman

MILWAUKEE -- Though the Braves ended up splitting this challenging 10-game trip, there are concerns about Sean Newcomb and the postseason-quality depth of their rotation after losing five of the final six contests.

A trip that began in promising fashion concluded with a frustration-filled 10-3 loss to the Brewers on Sunday afternoon at Miller Park. Newcomb struggled through a five-run third inning, made an early exit for the second time in five days and left the 37th start of his career knowing he's still susceptible to growing pains.

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MILWAUKEE -- Though the Braves ended up splitting this challenging 10-game trip, there are concerns about Sean Newcomb and the postseason-quality depth of their rotation after losing five of the final six contests.

A trip that began in promising fashion concluded with a frustration-filled 10-3 loss to the Brewers on Sunday afternoon at Miller Park. Newcomb struggled through a five-run third inning, made an early exit for the second time in five days and left the 37th start of his career knowing he's still susceptible to growing pains.

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"I don't expect to be perfect every time out," Newcomb said. "It just happened to be a couple rough ones in a row. I've just got to wipe it clean and move forward."

Video: ATL@MIL: Camargo, Freeman combine to retire Kratz

By the time the Braves packed their bags and prepared to return to Atlanta, it felt like they were weeks separated from this past Monday when Ronald Acuna Jr.'s 11th-inning home run at Yankee Stadium gave them four straight wins to begin this trip. The 1-5 finish was influenced by the starting rotation, which produced an 8.33 ERA during this six-game span.

"Our starters have been really solid," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We're going through a rut with them right now. You're going to have to keep fighting. The reason we are where we are is because our starting pitching has been so good."

Julio Teheran struggled during Wednesday's loss against the Yankees and Mike Foltynewicz endured a rare ugly inning on Friday night. But a majority of the damage incurred by the rotation was attributed to Newcomb, who gave up five earned runs on five hits and issued four walks over just 3 2/3 innings.

"It was like he didn't have a feel for pretty much anything," Snitker said. "He was scattering fastballs all over the place and he was just off."

Video: ATL@MIL: Brewers score 5 runs in the 3rd inning

Added Newcomb: "I'd say it's just feel. I haven't had my best stuff. I'm not getting ahead of hitters and attacking them the way I should be. I've just got to take a step back and reassess it. I've just got to get back to being aggressive."

Since producing a 2.49 ERA through his first 12 starts, Newcomb has constructed a 5.58 ERA in the following six. His command has wavered as was witnessed on Tuesday, when he issued five walks and surrendered a pair of home runs while lasting a career-short 2 2/3 innings against the Yankees.

"He was on a really good run there," Snitker said. "It's like a good hitter. They get on a run and then they have slumps. You've got to work and you've got to handle it. If you want to come out on top, you've got to handle those bad situations."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ender Inciarte understood Snitker's decision to remove him from the game after he didn't run out of the box on a pop fly that Brewers shortstop Tyler Saladino dropped along the left-field line during the fifth inning.

"He did what he had to do," Inciarte said. "He's got to set an example and start somewhere. If I've got to be the guy to be pulled from the game to show what we have to do, I'm OK with it."

Video: ATL@MIL: Swanson crosses the plate on an error

Dansby Swanson doubled and scored on Saladino's error. Because Inciarte was slow to leave the batter's box and then casually made his way toward first, he did not reach second base on the play and was not in position to score when Ozzie Albies followed with a single off Junior Guerra.

"I've talked to him before," Snitker said. "If you don't run and you hurt the team, then you have to come out of the game. We're playing for first place and we've got to get after it. You can't let those opportunities get away."

The Braves made some early noise, but they were unable to do much damage against Guerra, who allowed just one run over six innings.

Video: ATL@MIL: Guerra allows 1 run over 6 strong innings

SOUND SMART
Freddie Freeman recorded three hits in both of the final two games of the series, marking the seventh time in his career he has produced back-to-back three-hit performances. His combined hit total in the past two games matched his total (6-for-41) from the previous 11 games he'd played entering Saturday.

Video: ATL@MIL: Freeman clubs RBI double to left field

ACUNA RETURNS
The Braves opted to keep Acuna out of the starting lineup for one more day, but they used him as a pinch-hitter during the seventh inning. Acuna's one-out single accounted for his first action since he exited Friday's game with a sore left groin. He will likely be in the lineup for Tuesday night's series opener against the Blue Jays.

Video: ATL@MIL: Acuna Jr. collects a pinch-hit single in 7th

UP NEXT
Teheran will return to the mound when the Braves welcome the Blue Jays to SunTrust Park for the start of a two-game set at 7:35 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Teheran has recovered from the flu he caught immediately after recording 10 strikeouts while allowing five earned runs over five innings against the Yankees on Wednesday. He has posted an 8.05 ERA over his past 11 starts against American League East opponents. Toronto will counter with Marcus Stroman, who has a 3.78 ERA in three starts since ending a six-week stint on the disabled list.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Sean Newcomb