Bullpen's struggles continue vs. Rays

Bullpen's struggles continue vs. Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, Braves' starter Matt Wisler displayed the same kind of effectiveness that had propelled the rookie right-hander to a 5-1 record and 3.43 ERA in his first seven big league starts.

But the Braves' bullpen stayed true to its August form in Wednesday's 9-6 loss, allowing the Rays to explode for six runs in the seventh inning, giving Tampa Bay the three-run lead it would eventually win by.

Rookie reliever Matt Marksberry, who had recorded five scoreless outings in six appearances since making his Major League debut on July 31, struggled mightily in the high-leverage seventh. The 24-year-old lefty allowed five runs (three earned) on four hits -- including three doubles -- in two-thirds of an inning before being lifted for Ryan Kelly, who surrendered a towering two-run homer by Curt Casali.

The Braves' bullpen has now pitched to a 6.34 ERA in August, allowing 23 earned runs in 32 2/3.

"A lot of young, inexperienced guys pitching there at the end of the game there and sometimes … the inexperience stuff shows. It's a box of chocolates sometimes when you have that many inexperienced guys in the bullpen, but we fought, we battled, we had a three-run lead there and we just couldn't hold them off," said Braves' manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Marksberry, who took his first big league loss, was unavailable for comment after the game. Kelly, who was in his fourth stint with the Braves after the club recalled him on Aug. 4, was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett after the game.

Gonzalez fully understands the importance of pitching with confidence, so the fifth-year Braves skipper has no intention of allowing one rough night to exert a negative influence on Marksberry.

"I think he'll be OK," Gonzalez said. "Either I'll get with him [Thursday] or I'll get with him Friday. Kind of put your arm around a young man and say, 'Hey, listen, you're doing the best you can, and at least you threw the ball over the plate.'

"You hate to bring guys in and all of a sudden you walk two, you walk three guys. He threw the ball over the plate and some of the stuff that we see, we can fix, but I think that the biggest thing is that you keep running him out there, and the more you run him out there, the more experience he gets."

Wisler, who bounced back nicely for the Braves after struggling in two consecutive starts, was quick to support Marksberry in the wake of the disappointing loss.

"We're all young here. We're all going to go through those times," said Wisler. "I just had two really terrible outings, so obviously I know what he's feeling.

"He's a good pitcher. He'll bounce back."

Michael Kolligian is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.