Braves-Red Sox Preview
The Atlanta Braves finally hit a home run. They still lost, so some things haven't changed.
The worst team in baseball's losing streak now stands at eight heading into Thursday night's series finale with the Boston Red Sox, who can finish the sweep by winning a fifth straight game.
Freddie Freeman's solo homer in the eighth inning Wednesday snapped a 15-game drought, the Braves' longest since the franchise was located in Boston in 1946. It came much too late in a 9-4 loss, though, as Atlanta (4-17) continued its dismal start.
It is tied with Philadelphia for the fewest runs in the majors and has been relying on singles and doubles given its lack of power and being one of the league's few teams still without a triple.
The Braves' four homers are 20 fewer than they've allowed, and they've been outscored by 44 runs.
''It's really hard to put into words. You lose the first nine, then win four, then lose eight in a row,'' said Freeman, who has hit half of Atlanta's homers. ''It's a weird start to our season. It's the start we didn't want. But we've just got to start playing better baseball and hopefully start winning some games. It's not fun right now.''
Atlanta hopes to have better luck against Clay Buchholz, who hasn't been shy about allowing runs.
Buchholz (0-2, 6.33 ERA) has given up five in three of his four outings, including Saturday when he tossed 106 pitches in just 5 2/3 innings of an 8-3 loss to Houston. He pitched 6 2/3 scoreless against Toronto in his previous outing April 18 but couldn't build on that effort.
The right-hander set down eight straight going into the sixth, then issued a walk, a single and hit a batter before serving up a grand slam.
''I thought he had excellent feel for his secondary pitches,'' manager John Farrell said. ''He kept a very good fastball-hitting team off stride for the most part, (except for) the grand slam. Granted, you're going to look at the line score and it's going to say five runs, but I thought the way he threw the ball coming off the start against Toronto he was making very good progress.''
Buchholz looked good against Atlanta last season, giving up a pair of unearned run in seven innings of a 5-2 win June 18. An effective outing like that could be plenty with how often the Red Sox (12-9) are scoring lately.
They're averaging 7 runs during their winning streak with help from Dustin Pedroia, who is batting .441 with eight extra-base hits over his last seven. He hit a grand slam and added a solo homer Wednesday, while David Ortiz drove in two runs with three doubles.
The 40-year-old Ortiz moved past Ted Williams and Jimmie Fox on MLB's all-time extra-base hit list and into a tie with George Brett for 16th.
''I did? Good for me,'' said Ortiz, who is 7 for 15 over his last four. ''That's what happens when you play for a long time. Man, I'm old.''
Atlanta's starters have a 6.99 ERA over the last six, and Boston will look to stay hot against Jhoulys Chacin, whose strong start is a thing of the past. Chacin (0-1, 3.18) has allowed seven runs in his last 6 2/3 innings after beginning the season with an 11-inning scoreless stretch. He walked two and surrendered seven hits in Saturday's 8-2 loss to the New York Mets.
The right-hander last faced the Red Sox in 2013 while with Colorado, giving up seven runs in four innings of a 15-5 defeat.