Tyler Thornburg couldn’t have imagined the finish he had to the 2013 season, not after starting it by going 0-9 in 15 starts at Triple-A Nashville with an earned-run average in the high 5s (5.79).
But after surrendering just two runs on seven hits and a walk with a career-high eight strikeouts in seven innings Thursday night against the Atlanta Braves, Thornburg ran his streak of consecutive quality starts to seven, although he wound up with a no-decision in a game the Milwaukee Brewers lost 3-2 to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
Andrelton Simmons singled to right-center with two outs in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie and win it for the Braves, who lead the St. Louis Cardinals by just a half-game in the race for home-field advantage in the National League playoffs.
Thornburg, who made his final start of the season on Tuesday, is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 18 appearances, including seven starts, for the Crew this season.
“I know there are a lot of people out there that either don’t think I belong or don’t think I belong in the starting rotation,” Thornburg told the Associated Press. “I did pitch against four playoff teams. It wasn’t exactly bad teams I was facing. I’m really excited about that. That will give me a lot of confidence going into the offseason.”
The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the third when Norichika Aoki smacked a double to right field with one out and came around to score one out later on a single to left by Jonathan Lucroy.
Aoki was 1-for-4 with a run on Tuesday and is now 10-for-20 with three walks and 10 runs scored in his last five games.
The Braves tied it at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth with a little two-out thunder. Freddie Freeman singled to center with two outs and came around to score when Evan Gattis doubled to deep center. That was all Atlanta would get, though, as Gattis was thrown out at third on one of two outfield assists for Carlos Gomez on the night. That runs his total to 12 and gives him the lead in the NL over Juan Lagares of the New York Mets, who has 11.
Jeff Bianchi gave the Brewers the lead right back in the top of the fifth, hitting his first home run of the season off Freddy Garcia to lead off the frame. His shot to the left field seats was his first home run since Sept. 4, 2012, when he hit a three-run shot off Chad Gaudin of the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Curiously, Bianchi went more than a year without a home run after hitting three within eight days of each other last season (Aug. 28-Sept. 4, 2012).
The Braves tied it back up in the sixth. Jason Heyward singled with one out and moved up to second on Justin Upton’s single. Freeman knocked in Heyward with another hit up the middle and it was 2-2.
The 37-year-old Garcia gave Atlanta another solid start, working 6.2 innings and allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. In six appearances, three starts, for the Braves, Garcia is 1-2, but with a 1.65 ERA and 1.024 WHIP in 27.1 innings. He was picked up from the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 23.
Donovan Hand (0-5) took the loss for the Crew, allowing three hits and the winning run while recording two outs in the ninth. Brandon Kinztler had worked a scoreless eighth. Craig Kimbrel (4-3) got the win for Atlanta, striking out the side in a perfect ninth inning. Alex Wood got the final out of the seventh for the Braves and David Carpenter worked a perfect eighth.
The teams play the rubber game of the three-game set Wednesday night at Turner Field. Kyle Lohse (10-10) is scheduled to start for Milwaukee against Paul Maholm (10-10) for the Braves. Game time is 6:10 p.m. Central Time on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
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