- David O'Brien The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
MIAMI – The Braves continued an uninspiring stumble toward the finish line Saturday, when rookie Lucas Sims got rocked for five runs in the first inning and the Marlins rolled to a 10-2 win at Marlins Park in the penultimate game of a season that can’t end soon enough for the Braves.
The Marlins batted around in first inning against Sims (3-6), who lasted two innings and was charged with seven hits, six runs and four walks with one strikeout. In the first inning he missed consistently up in the strike zone and allowed two walks, a sacrifice fly and a hit of every variety — single, double, triple and home run, a three-run shot by Derek Dietrich.
“In order to pitch up in the zone effectively you’ve got to mix in some down, and I wasn’t able to do that tonight,” Sims said. “I was trying to keep the same mindset of staying aggressive, I just didn’t have it tonight. I would have liked to end on a better note; it kind of sticks with you a little bit going into the offseason. But you learn from it and try to do better in 2018.”
It was the 90th loss and the sixth in a row for the Braves on an eight-game season-ending trip that’s spiraled and certainly hasn’t improved Brian Snitker’s chances of being retained as manager.
“Yeah, the wheels fell off,” Snitker said of the brutal trip. “I don’t know. Maybe we can go out and Max can (pitch well) tomorrow and end the season on a winning note.”
Atlanta closes the season at 3 p.m. Sunday with rookie Max Fried facing Marlins right-hander Jose Urena.
The Braves won the first game of a Monday doubleheader at New York against the Mets – Sims pitched well and got the win — but have lost every game since, including the last three against the Mets and the first three of the four-game series against the Marlins.
“Yeah, I can think of better ways to end,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “There were some tough (losses) in there. They banged it around today, it was one of those days. They were getting swinging bunts, grounders through shifts, finding holes, bloopers falling in. I mean, they hit some balls hard, too. But they hit balls hard and got the bloopers. That’s tough to defend.”
Saturday’s loss gave the Braves their third consecutive season of at least 90 losses. They hadn’t endured such a stretch since four consecutive 90-loss seasons through 1990, the year before the worst-to-first season that began their unprecedented run of 14 consecutive division titles.
After sweeping the Diamondbacks in the first series after the All-Star break to get their record to a high-water mark of 45-45, the Braves have posted an NL-worst 26-45 since to drop their record to 71-90.
Sims threw 60 pitches and retired only five of 16 batters, the other out in his stint recorded when Tyler Flowers threw out Dee Gordon attempting to steal third base – moments after stealing second.
“He was getting under the ball, couldn’t get over and through it like he has been for some reason,” said Snitker, who had hoped to see Sims end with a third straight strong start. “He’s done so well and had such a good year overall, you kind of wanted him to go out on a better note. But he’s a tough kid, he’s mentally tough. He’ll go back I’m sure and look at the tape tomorrow and figure out what happened and be ready to go in the spring.”
Gordon had three hits and two stolen bases for the Marlins to give him 200 hits and 60 stolen bases for the season, and No. 8 hitter Miguel Rojas had four hits including a triple and a double.
The Braves trailed 6-0 after two innings and 8-0 after five, and Marlins starter Ordrisamar Despaigne (2-3) carried a three-hit shutout to the seventh inning, when the Braves go two runs off him on four hits including RBI singles from Dansby Swanson and Matt Adams.
Sims’ 10th start was his briefest and one of his two worst – the other was against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sept. 2, when he allowed six hits including two homers, seven runs and four walks in three innings.
He was replaced in the rotation after that game by prospect Luiz Gohara and bumped to the bullpen, where Sims made four relief appearances before moving back into the rotation Sept. 20 after Mike Foltynewicz was sidelined by a cut finger.
Sims impressed in his first two starts after returning to the rotation, allowing just eight hits, three runs and four walks with 12 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings against the Nationals and Mets.
“Last two starts and the bullpen, the whole thing,” Snitker said. “I was really surprised (that he struggled so much Saturday). He got out there and it started rolling out of control and he couldn’t stop it. (Surprised) because he’s pitched so good for a long time. Even the so-so starts he had after he came (to the majors), they were OK. He just couldn’t get there (Saturday).”
Flowers echoed Snitker’s comments about Sims’ progress this season and said he could even take positives from his Saturday outing aside “from the performance and the stat line. The demeanor, the makeup that he shows out there even in the midst of something like that, where he’s not having good command. Pitches aren’t going where he want them to, they’re not moving how he wants, you’re falling behind, but still his body language, his conviction with everything he throws, his competitiveness — I think that’s something that’s going to enable him in the future to get through these kind of outings, to survive and give us a chance, and then when he’s feeling good it’ll be more like we’ve seen from him.”