Braves struggle again as Blue Jays secure series win in Toronto

The Canadian Press photo by Christopher Katsarov via AP / Atlanta Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homer in the second inning of Saturday's game against the host Toronto Blue Jays.

TORONTO — For Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker, watching Toronto Blue Jays star Bo Bichette work up close is a double-edged sword.

And as Bichette proved again Saturday, that sword is very sharp.

He singled home the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning and was 2-for-4 with two RBIs as the Blue Jays beat the Braves 5-2. Bichette finished the game as Major League Baseball's hits leader this season with 54.

"He's so talented," Snitker said. "I hate playing against him, but it's fun to watch him because he's such a talented young man. The ball explodes off his bat."

Toronto opened the three-game interleague series with a 3-0 win Friday, so Saturday's result handed Atlanta its first series loss on the road this season. The Braves, who have lost three games in a row overall, had won six straight series away from home to start the year before coming north to Canada.

Toronto reliever Erik Swanson (2-1) got five outs for the win, and Jordan Romano earned his 10th save in 12 chances this year.

After hitting consecutive singles off Atlanta reliever A.J. Minter (2-5) in the seventh, Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer pulled off a double steal to put runners at second and third. Bichette drove in Kiermaier, who finished with three hits, with a base hit through a drawn-in infield before Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly.

Danny Jansen pushed Toronto's lead to three with an RBI double off Joe Jiménez in the eighth.

Toronto's 654 interleague home runs are the most of any MLB team, but they didn't need one to beat the Braves, leaning on baserunning and timely hitting instead.

"I think we can still outhomer people, but it's fun to play hard and win this way," Bichette said.

Minter led the NL with 61 scoreless appearances in 2022. This year, he lost three times in four appearances in late April, and now he has dropped back-to-back games after being on the wrong end of Wednesday's home loss to the Boston Red Sox.

"You've just got to grind through it," Snitker said. "He will, he's done it before. He's a year removed from being one of the most effective relievers in baseball, but this game is cruel. It just keeps testing you."

Atlanta's Marcell Ozuna hit a two-run homer in the second, his seventh of the season and his fifth in his past seven games, connecting on a 3-2 pitch from José Berríos.

Guerrero hit a leadoff double in the fourth, punctuating his hit with a headfirst slide into second base. He advanced to third on Matt Chapman's infield single and cut Atlanta's lead in half when he scored on a grounder by Whit Merrifield, who stole three bases in the game.

Toronto tied it in the fifth when Kiermaier beat out a leadoff double to shallow right, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Bichette's two-out single.

Atlanta had put runners at the corners with two outs in the top half of the inning, but Springer laid out for a diving catch on Eddie Rosario's liner to end the threat.

"Huge play from George there," Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. "It kept the game where it should be."

Atlanta loaded the bases with nobody out against Yimi Garcia in the seventh but couldn't break the deadlock. Garcia left after getting Sean Murphy to ground into a fielder's choice. Swanson came on and struck out Rosario, then got Ozzie Albies to fly out.

The Braves have scored four total runs in their past three games.

"You're going to go through these stretches," Snitker said. "You just have to keep fighting."

The Blue Jays have won eight straight meetings with Atlanta, sweeping all six games in 2021 to begin the streak. It's the Braves' longest losing skid against a single opponent since 2015, when they lost nine in a row to the Washington Nationals, a National League East rival.