After the Braves’ bear of a rookie, Evan Gattis, helped manufacture a run for a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, it looked as if Paul Maholm had the stuff to shut down the Dodgers on groundballs the rest of the way.
The Dodgers’ own phenom, Cuban rookie Yasiel Puig, thought otherwise and hit a game-tying homer in the sixth inning, and the Braves lost 2-1 in 10 innings when pinch-runner Skip Schumaker scored on a wild pitch by reliever Anthony Varvaro.
“Not the oddest way to lose, but the worst way, I would say,” Varvaro said after the Braves’ second consecutive loss to start the road trip, following a five-game winning streak at home.
They lost on a wild pitch on a night when they got otherwise outstanding pitching from starter Paul Maholm and relievers Jordan Walden and Luis Avilan, and only after a blown call by the first-base umpire ended Atlanta’s scoring threat in the top of the 10th.
After a two-out double by Jason Heyward in the 10th, Justin Upton hit a nubber of a grounder in front of the plate. He was called out by first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor, though replays showed he beat the catcher’s throw to first base. Upton, who yanked off his helmet and argued after the call, said replays confirmed what he thought.
“Yeah, I hustled down the line and didn’t get rewarded for it,” said Upton, whose frustration was compounded by the fact that the Braves would’ve had hot-hitting Freddie Freeman up next with runners on the corners.
Freeman was 3-for-4 with a double Friday and has hit .377 with four homers and 14 RBIs in his past 15 games.
“There’s nobody on this team that we want to come up to the plate other than him,” Upton said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened the way it did and he didn’t come up to the plate. The way he’s swinging the bat, I mean, to be honest, that’s one of the only dudes you want up there in that situation.”
First-base coach Terry Pendleton quickly interceded to keep Upton from going too far with Bucknor, and manager Fredi Gonzalez continued the argument a bit longer before returning to the dugout.
“I didn’t think it was as close as (Bucknor) thought it was,” said Gonzalez, whose Braves are 12-2 in their past 14 home games, and 4-9 in their past 13 on the road. “You would like to take an opportunity with Freeman at the plate, runners on first and third and your hottest hitter at the plate. That didn’t happen, and that last inning there, two wild pitches and we end up losing the game.”
Regarding the Bucknor call, Gonzalez added, “Obviously (his is) the judgment that counts, really. I haven’t seen the replay, but in real (time), I didn’t even think it was that close. After this and I go watch the film, I think I’m going to be pretty correct on that.”
Varvaro had allowed consecutive one-out singles by Ramon Hernandez and Luis Cruz, and the wild pitch was his second of the inning.