MLB: Braves’ bullpen in spotlight against Rockies

The Atlanta Braves will try to plug their suddenly leaky bullpen when they return home to start a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday.

The Braves lost the final two games of their road series at St. Louis when their reliable relievers faltered in the late innings, leaving them three games behind the New York Mets in the National League East. Colorado continues its 10-game road trip after dropping three of four to the Mets.

Atlanta will send ace Max Fried (12-4, 2.52 ERA) to the mound Tuesday against Colorado’s Jose Urena (2-5, 5.98).

On Saturday, the Braves’ bullpen issues surfaced when closer Kenley Jansen gave up two runs in the ninth inning of a 6-5 defeat. On Sunday, it was reliable setup man A.J. Minter who gave up two homers and four total runs in the eighth inning of a 6-3 loss.

The Braves’ relievers are now 24-17 with a 3.27 ERA. They have 43 saves in 67 opportunities, with 496 strikeouts and 156 walks in 441 innings of work.

“We’re all human,” Jansen said after his most recent meltdown. “Of course, we don’t ever want to blow a game, but that’s the nature of the game. You’ve got your ups, you’ve got your downs and you’ve got to fight through it. I know how to come back and get back on top.”

The Atlanta bullpen also lost dependable innings-eater Jackson Stephens when he was struck in the forehead by a line drive. Stephens was placed on the concussion list and replaced by journeyman Jay Jackson.

Fried went eight strong innings, allowing one run on three hits with seven strikeouts, in beating the Pirates last Tuesday. Fried is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA in four career appearance (three starts) against Colorado. He went eight scoreless innings at Colorado on June 3.

Colorado counters with the veteran Urena, who will make his 11th start with the Rockies since being added to the roster in the first week of July. He is coming off the worst start of his career, when he allowed nine runs on nine hits in 1 1/3 innings Wednesday against the Texas Rangers.

“When Jose is right, everything is down at the knees with sinking action,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “(There was) not a lot of action on the fastball. It was sort of thigh-high to belt-high and he pulled and yanked the changeup a couple of times.”

Until then, the right-hander had been solid, throwing at least six innings in his three previous starts and going six innings in six of his 10 starts with the club.

Urena will be making his 16th career start and 19th overall appearance against the Braves. He is 2-9 with a 6.50 ERA all-time against the Braves.

All eyes will be on Urena after his 2018 feud with Atlanta slugger Ronald Acuna Jr. Urena, then pitching for Miami, was suspended for six games for hitting Acuna with a pitch and sparking a benches-clearing incident in 2018.

Acuna had homered in five straight games and was hit on the left elbow by Urena to start the game.

–Field Level Media

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