Braves foiled after plate-blocking challenge

August 24th, 2020

ATLANTA -- Instead of celebrating a potential sweep of the Phillies with a second straight walk-off win, Braves manager Brian Snitker was left expressing his opinion of the plate-blocking rule after was tagged out to end a 5-4 loss to the Phillies on Sunday night at Truist Park.

“[Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp] was sitting there pretty good, but they're not calling that anymore,” Snitker said. “They need to take that off the book and just start blowing up catchers again."

Snitker’s frustration extended beyond the plate-blocking rule, which was instituted in 2014 to protect catchers from collisions. The Braves went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and he removed during the middle of a plate appearance because the young hurler was again dealing with control issues.

Yet one night after overcoming a four-run seventh-inning deficit, the Braves nearly handed Brandon Workman a second straight blown save in just his second appearance since being acquired from the Red Sox on Friday.

Freddie Freeman’s two-out double to the left-center-field gap easily scored . But Swanson’s attempt to score from first base was denied when Didi Gregorius’ relay throw beat him to the plate.

“[Knapp] was clearly in front of the plate before he had the ball,” Snitker said. “He didn’t get the ball and then take the plate away. He was waiting in front of the plate as the rule says. The ball didn’t take him there. He was already there.”

Knapp believes the throw forced him to be in front of the plate.

“Thankfully that throw kind of took me into the line, so I was able to take it into the tag with me,” Knapp said. “I just knew that whether or not I had the ball, I wasn’t really going to let him get to the plate. It was kind of a do-or-die play, and I ended up coming up with it.”

Before that thrilling conclusion, Snitker’s visible frustration had been aimed toward Toussaint.

surrendered three home runs while completing three innings in a spot start. His exit -- with the Phillies leading 4-0 -- prompted the entry of Toussaint, who had spent the past couple of weeks in the rotation.

The 24-year-old righty minimized damage in a potentially damaging fourth. But his night suddenly ended when he walked two of the first three batters of the fifth and then fell behind Knapp with a 2-0 count.

As soon as the second pitch to Knapp missed up and away, Snitker sprung from the dugout and called for left-handed reliever .

“It’s not something you do very often, but it was just one of those situations where it felt like Matzek still had some count to work with and we still had a chance to get out of the inning,” Snitker said.

Matzek killed the fifth inning threat for Toussaint, who allowed four straight batters to reach safely before retiring Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto in the fourth.

Toussaint surrendered just the one run, but it ended up being the decisive one. More troubling for the Braves are the eight walks issued over his past 4 1/3 innings.

Among Braves pitchers with at least 10 innings this year, Toussaint has a 12.7 percent walk rate. That’s trumped only by the 21.3 percent produced by Kyle Wright, who was optioned to the alternate training site, where a couple other former rotation members -- Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb -- were also demoted this year.

The Braves are expected to promote top pitching prospect Ian Anderson to start Tuesday night against the Yankees. They may add a starter before the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline. Toussaint is just a couple of weeks removed from an impressive nine-strikeout game against the Blue Jays.

“He’s got too good of an arm and his stuff is too good,” Snitker said. “He’s got to figure out a way because the stuff plays here.”