ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker would have certainly liked to use Arodys Vizcaino or Jim Johnson to protect his team's two-run lead in the ninth inning of Wednesday night's 12-5 loss to the Pirates at SunTrust Park.
But as Snitker looks ahead, with the hope Vizcaino and Johnson continue to be key cogs in a bullpen that fueled the Braves' recent success, he certainly had reason to protect these recently taxed relievers and give Jose Ramirez a chance to prove himself in the closer's role.
Unfortunately for the Braves, Ramirez became the latest reliever to support the belief that recording the final three outs in a game is not similar to doing so in a middle-relief or setup appearance. The hard-throwing right-hander entered the game with a 1.31 ERA, and had limited opponents to a .136 batting average over his previous 20 appearances. But those impressive numbers meant nothing, as he allowed the Pirates to erase a 5-3 deficit with Jose Osuna's two-out, two-run single in the ninth.
"Yeah, [pitching in the ninth] is a little bit different, to be honest," Ramirez said through an interpreter. "I was just trying to make the pitches, and they weren't working out my way. All I can focus on the next time I go out there is to execute, and it will work out better next time."
Johnson and Vizcaino appeared in the two previous games, and four of the previous five. Thus, Snitker entered this game knowing he was going to stay away from his top two relievers, both of whom helped the Braves win nine of their previous 12 games.
"It is a good thing they are getting to pitch a lot, as it means they are doing good," Snitker said. "The other guys were doing great, but we just couldn't get that last out in the ninth. Other guys came in, and did a good job holding the game in check. We had the big inning, and had a lot of positives. It is just that last out in the ninth was tough to come by."
After Teheran halted his home woes, Jason Motte, Ian Krol and Luke Jackson combined to keep the Pirates scoreless through the seventh and eighth innings. Thus, when it came time to decide who would pitch the 10th, Snitker had to choose between lefty Sam Freeman and Josh Collmenter, who in the past had shown the capability to work multiple innings in efficient fashion.
It didn't take long for the Pirates to strike against Collmenter, who allowed six hits (including three consecutive home runs) and seven earned runs in one inning. He became just the fifth reliever in Braves history to allow at least seven earned runs, while working one inning or less.
"At the end of the day, we have confidence in everybody that steps out of that bullpen," utility man Jace Peterson said. "They have been doing such a tremendous job. Baseball is what it is, and sometimes it doesn't go your way. Tomorrow, we get to wake up early, and come do it again."