Braves fall after early miscue, late pitching woes

Braves fall after early miscue, late pitching woes

Braves fall after early miscue, late pitching woes
ATLANTA -- The Braves have reason to believe Tyler Pastornicky will do everything he can to avoid the embarrassment that accompanied his latest blunder. But they can only hope Jonny Venters' recent struggles are not a sign of things to come.

Instead of extending the momentum they carried out of an impressive nine-game road trip, the Braves were undone by Pastornicky's mental error and Venters' eighth-inning struggles in a 3-1 loss to the Reds at Turner Field on Monday night.

"I was leaving pitches up over the plate and falling behind," Venters said. "I wasn't making pitches when I needed to, and they made me pay for it. I've got to do a better job of going out there and attacking hitters. I didn't do that tonight, and it cost me the game."

One day after providing the Braves sole possession of first place in the National League East with Joey Votto's walk-off grand slam against the Nationals, the Reds came to Atlanta and subdued a hot club that had just completed a 7-2 road trip with a sweep of the defending world champion Cardinals.

Drew Stubbs opened the decisive two-run eighth inning with a weak dribbler that Venters was not able to field along the third-base line. Two batters later, Brandon Phillips lined his game-winning double to the left-center-field gap. He later scored on Chris Heisey's RBI double.

"It's unfortunate what happened to Jonny in the eighth inning," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But it's not worrying me."

Since going through nine April appearances without allowing a run, Venters has allowed a run in three of his first six appearances this month. The veteran left-handed reliever was given six days of rest after he felt some discomfort in his left arm following his May 2 appearance against the Phillies.

"I feel fine," Venters said. "I'm making a lot of non-competitive pitches, pitches that guys are not even offering at. Then I'm making even worse pitches over the plate, and they're hitting the ball hard."

After the Braves put a pair of runners on with one out in the bottom of the eighth, the Reds called upon Aroldis Chapman, who breathed a sigh of relief when Brian McCann's long drive was caught in front of the right-field warning track. Chapman then walked Chipper Jones to load the bases before striking out Jason Heyward to end the threat.

Venters' struggles followed the strong start made by Randall Delgado, who allowed one unearned run while scattering four hits over 6 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old rookie has posted a 1.33 ERA in his first three starts of this month. This marked just the second time in 14 career starts that he pitched into the seventh inning.

The Reds grabbed the early lead with one of the wackiest defensive plays the Braves have produced this year. After Jay Bruce and Heisey recorded consecutive singles off Delgado with two outs in the fourth inning, rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky fielded Todd Frazier's two-out grounder and flipped to the unguarded second-base bag.

"It's unacceptable," Pastornicky said. "It's a play up the middle, and I tried to go to second with two outs. It's kind of one of those learning experiences. I just have to take it for how it is and move on."

With Heisey running on a full-count, two-out pitch, Braves second baseman Dan Uggla had no reason to cover the bag. Pastornicky was not aware of the situation until he had made the errant flip that allowed Bruce to score from second base on the play.

"I think it happens more with younger players than veteran players," Gonzalez said. "But, really, that's elementary stuff in those kinds of situations."

The Braves did not mount many serious threats against Reds starter Homer Bailey, who allowed just one run and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. Jones' fourth-inning single gave the hosts runners at first and second base with just one out in the fourth inning. But Bailey then retired Heyward and Pastornicky without incurring any damage.

Michael Bourn accounted for the Braves' lone run after he laced a one-out triple to right field in the fifth inning and then aggressively tagged from third base on Martin Prado's fly ball to shallow right field. With Bruce's throw slightly off line, the speedy center fielder tied the game with a headfirst slide across home plate.

"They got some hits when they needed to," Pastornicky said. "I think that play that I had didn't really help too much in our situation. I've kind of got to learn from it and move on."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.