ATLANTA — Neither team had scored since the third inning Wednesday night at Truist Park. Christian Vázquez negotiated a one-out walk in the top of the ninth against Braves closer Kenley Jansen, but that amounted to nothing after a Jackie Bradley Jr. strikeout and a Kiké Hernández fly out.
So Ryan Brasier came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth for the Red Sox with the game tied, 3-3. Ozzie Albies led off with a single to left. And then with one out in the frame, Orlando Arcia belted a two-run walkoff homer to left field. The Sox lost, 5-3, splitting the two-game set with the Braves. The Sox haven’t still haven’t won a series since taking two of three from the Tigers (April 11-13).
If there’s an inning that likely stings the most from Wednesday’s defeat, it’s one that was out of their control: the top of the sixth.
The Red Sox had some momentum in the top of the frame, only to have it snatched away by home plate umpire Adam Beck. With the bases loaded and the count three and two, Kevin Plawecki took what he thought should have been ball four low. Instead, Beck called it a strike to end the inning and keep the game tied at 3. The pitch was well below the zone. Both Plawecki and manager Alex Cora were ejected for arguing.
“It at least cost us one run,” Plawecki said afterward. “If not more. It stinks. Terrible.”
Observations from the game:
▪ Plawecki felt Beck had a consistent zone all evening. But he knew Beck missed that call even without seeing the replay (though Plawecki did watch it following his ejection).
“I know he’s human,” Plawecki said. “But in that situation, in that spot, let’s be better than that.”
▪ Ultimately, though, the Sox know that’s not the only moment that cost them the game.
“We have to complete games,” Cora said. “We’ve been very close to completing games but we are where we are because we haven’t done it.”
Beck made the bad call in the sixth. That left the Sox with three chances to make something happen and they failed. The Red Sox were 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position, leaving seven runners on base. Not the worst evening, but the Sox should have figured out a way to push a runner across.
▪ Trevor Story scoured video while seated at his locker Tuesday afternoon, studying the Braves pitching staff. He flipped from clip to clip, dissecting his opponent carefully. He leaned back in his chair before closing his laptop and leaving the clubhouse.
Story went 2 for 5 that night, driving in two in a 9-4 victory.
On Wednesday, Story hit his first homer with the Red Sox, a two-run shot in the top of the second inning off Ian Anderson. The ball traveled 422 feet to dead center field, landing in the bushes behind the 400-foot mark. It took Story 26 games, the longest he had gone without a homer in his career.
This is the Story the Red Sox will need if they are going to change the course of their season. The rest of the lineup needs to hit, but Story’s struggles offensively have played a role in the Sox’ funk.
His productive presence can only help.
▪ J.D. Martinez extended his hit streak to 13 games with an RBI single in the top of the third.
▪ Nate Eovaldi was really good. The Red Sox starter went 6⅓ innings, striking out six. But homers continue to haunt Eovaldi. He relinquished his ninth of the season — which leads the majors — when Travis Demeritte blistered a two-run shot to left in the bottom of the third.
“It’s definitely frustrating giving up home runs,” said Eovaldi, who didn’t allow a homer until his 10th start last year. “We said it would come when you’re attacking the zone and things like that, but I don’t really have an answer.
Yet Eovaldi believes it wasn’t so much the homer that hurt him that inning, but the walk to Dansby Swanson and Swanson stealing second. Matt Olson then drilled an RBI double off the base of the left-center field wall.
▪ The Sox have lost five games in walkoff fashion, which leads the majors. Yet despite another crushing defeat, the team feels as though the offense is beginning to click heading into their series with the Rangers which begins Friday.
“We’re swinging at more balls in the zone, keeping the line moving,” Plawecki said. “The at-bats are getting better. Hopefully we continue to keep getting better.”