ATLANTA -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker evaluated the two-run deficit he faced entering the sixth inning of Friday night's 11-5 loss to the Rockies at SunTrust Park, he felt fine sending Sean Newcomb out to face the bottom of Colorado's lineup with just 85 pitches under his belt.
But instead of having a reliever available when Newcomb encountered almost immediate trouble, Snitker allowed his left-hander to battle through some misfortune and ultimately realize his fourth matchup of the night against Charlie Blackmon would not end in a result as favorable as the previous three.
"He had pitched [Blackmon] pretty good," Snitker said. "Rather than bring somebody out of the bullpen again, I was thinking we're down in the game and hoping to leave him out there and he could get him again."
Newcomb had been allowed to face a hitter for a fourth time in a game just once previously this year. But the Braves were hesitant to dip into their bullpen and hopeful Blackmon would fare much like he had when he had struck out in the third and the fourth. But the changeup that had concluded the second of those strikeouts was not as effective in the sixth, when the Rockies center fielder extended Colorado's lead to 6-1 with a two-run triple that bounced past first base on the way to the right-field corner.
"Just being a lefty, I thought I was more likely to face [Blackmon]," Newcomb said. "I was ready to get him. I thought I made some good pitches. It was just a good hitter, who hit a good changeup down the line."
Once the dust settled at the end of evening, during which utility man Charlie Culberson's first career relief appearance was much more impressive than the latest provided by Kolby Allard, the Braves were staring at a second consecutive loss, both of which have been influenced by the need or desire to protect bullpen assets. Their one-run, ninth-inning lead in Thursday's loss to the Rockies evaporated as Brad Brach handled the closing duties because closer A.J. Minter, Jesse Biddle and Jonny Venters were all unavailable.
"You've got to look a day or two ahead when you're doing all this," Snitker said. "Your starter is out there and he's probably on his last leg. He's one guy away and you hope he can get that last out."
The Braves' bullpen did not begin stirring until Chris Iannetta delivered a one-out single that scored Ian Desmond, who had singled and stolen second base. Rockies starter Kyle Freeland then further frustrated Newcomb with a sacrifice bunt attempt placed well enough to result in an infield single. This set the stage for Blackmon.
"I was just hoping where we were, he could get through that sixth," Snitker said. "But it was just kind of a rough night for him."
Before doubling down in the sixth, the Braves seemed fortunate to get five innings from Newcomb, who escaped a second-inning, bases-loaded threat unscathed and then allowed Desmond to produce a three-run triple against a changeup at the knees in the third inning.
Newcomb followed his 134-pitch near no-hitter against the Dodgers with a strong six-inning effort during an Aug. 7 win over the Nationals. But he allowed a season-high 12 hits against the Brewers on Sunday and then was charged with a season-high seven earned runs over 5 1/3 innings during this matchup against the Rockies.
"I honestly felt pretty good today," Newcomb said. "It seemed like they were hitting balls hard right at people and then hitting balls soft for hits. I was pretty happy with the way I was delivering pitches, but obviously not the outcome."
Ronald Acuna Jr. was awarded an infield single in the first before scoring on a Nick Markakis sacrifice fly that accounted for the only run allowed over six innings by Freeland, who has a 2.20 ERA over his past 12 starts.
Dansby Swanson scored Adam Duvall with a seventh-inning double and the Braves tallied three in the ninth. But by that time, they were a long way from their two-run, sixth-inning deficit that further became a distant memory once Allard provided further indication he's not ready to take the big leagues by storm by allowing three eighth-inning runs in his latest shaky appearance.
POSITION PLAYER PITCHES
Culberson showed why the Yankees were at least interested in drafting him as a pitcher before the Giants took him as a shortstop with the 51st pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. Pitching for the first time since high school, the Braves' utility man hit as high as 93.7 mph with his fastball, as he allowed just one run in the ninth inning. He joined Jonny Gomes (Aug. 28, 2015) as the only position players to pitch for Atlanta dating back to 1990.
"If my arm was in better shape, I know I could get more," Culberson said. "I love to pitch. That's something that even though I haven't done it for a long time, maybe one day it would be cool to give it a go as a two-way guy. I've always joked around about it. No, I'll leave it at that tonight with one outing. It was fun."
Mike Foltynewicz will attempt to complete his second strong start of the homestand during Saturday's 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Rockies. Foltynewicz limited the Marlins to one run over eight innings Monday and enters this start having allowed two earned runs or fewer in 18 of his 23 starts. Colorado will counter with Antonio Senzatela, who has a 3.60 ERA in five starts this year.