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ATLANTA (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays just can't win a series against the Atlanta Braves.
With a chance to sweep a two-game set for their first series win over the Braves since 2001, the Rays failed to take advantage of what appeared to be a favorable pitching matchup and lost 2-1 on Wednesday night.
"This is a difficult one to take tonight," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We had some opportunities."
Braves rookie Williams Perez made his first major league start and outpitched Jake Odorizzi, who entered the game with a 2.36 ERA.
Perez gave up one run over five innings and had seven strikeouts, and fellow rookie Todd Cunningham drove in the tiebreaking run with a groundout in the sixth inning for the winning run.
"(Perez) was terrific," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "You can't ask for anything more."
Odorizzi (3-4) allowed two runs and four hits over six innings. It was the eighth time this season the Rays have scored two runs or less in one of his starts.
"It's something I really can't think about," Odorizzi said. "If I'm worrying about us scoring runs, I'm probably going to be giving up a lot of runs myself."
The Rays took a lead in the first inning on a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly by James Loney. The Rays entered the game 17-2 when scoring first, but the offense simply could not add any more runs the rest of the game despite having nine more base runners over the final eight innings.
"Tough to win ballgames when you are leaving that many guys on," Cash said.
Freddie Freeman helped Perez end a bases-loaded jam in the fourth with some nifty glove work that turned into an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play. Perez spiked the ball after the play and congratulated Freeman on his way off the field.
In the fifth, Perez struck out Steven Souza Jr. and Evan Longoria with two men on.
"He competes," Gonzalez said. "On that last punchout, he was on fumes. Those two outs in the fifth will go a long way in his development. "
The Braves bullpen threw four scoreless innings to close out the win for Brandon Cunniff (2-0). Jason Grilli picked up his 12th save.
Freeman scored the go-ahead run after reaching on a ground-rule double in the sixth inning. He advanced to third on Nick Markakis' single and scored on Cunningham's grounder.
Rays: Matt Moore threw a bullpen session on Wednesday after throwing 31 pitches in a simulated game on Monday as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.
Braves: Infielder Phil Gosselin had successful surgery on his injured thumb on Wednesday. He is on the 15-day DL and is expected to miss roughly eight weeks. He had seven hits in his last 14 at-bats before getting injured while diving for a groundball on May 17.
Rays: Alex Colome (2-1) will take the mound as the Rays host the opener of a four-game series against the Oakland A's on Thursday. After winning his first two starts, the right-hander has struggled in his last two, giving up 11 runs and 17 hits in 9 1-3 innings. Jesse Chavez (1-3, 2.63 ERA) will start for Oakland.
Braves: Julio Teheran (3-1) and the Braves will take on the Brewers in the first game of a four-game series in Atlanta. Teheran leads the National League in run support per nine innings at 7.1. Teheran is 1-2 with a 1.69 ERA in his career vs. Milwaukee. He will be opposed by Matt Garza (2-5).
EARNING THE BASE ON BALLS
Odorizzi entered the game without issuing a walk in his previous 26 innings and 109 batters. Jace Peterson ended that streak at 118 batters, but it took a 10-pitch at-bat with three two-strike foul balls before he earned the free pass. Odorizzi finished with two walks.
BEING GOOD NEIGHBORS
The Braves added the Hawks-Cavaliers game to their scoreboard in left field so fans could track Game 1 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals going on across town at Phillips Arena.