Braves offense struggles in Arizona, Anaheim
When the Braves set out for their current 7-game road trip, they had just won 4 straight and were headed west for meetings with the Diamondbacks and Angels before giving the Pirates a quick visit.
It all began Wednesday, with recent callup/spot starter Julio Teheran filling in for Brandon Beachy.
Teheran was able to get the first two outs before giving up a solo home run to Justin Upton. The D-Backs tagged Teheran for another run in the 4th before his day was done.
The Braves got on the board in the 5th when Brian McCann’s sac fly scored Jason Heyward, but consecutive baserunning miscues by Chipper and Uggla snuffed out any rally the Braves might have put together. Both Uggla and Chipper were thrown out at third attempting to advance.
Even with the 5th inning ending on a sour note, the Braves fought back, as Brooks Conrad’s double to right scored Nate McLouth and Martin Prado’s sac fly scored Conrad.
But a wild pitch from Scott Proctor was lost long enough to score Ryan Roberts from second base, tying the game at 3.
The game remained tied until the 11th inning, when the Braves broke through first, as Uggla scored on a single off the bat of Diory Hernandez, but the D-Backs were not done, as Craig Kimbrel was unable to close the door, allowing the D-Backs to score twice and stealing the win.
With a loss to start off the road trip, Jair Jurrjens took the mound looking to get the Braves back on the right track in Thursday’s finale.
JJ, who came into the game 5-0 fresh off a solid start against the Phillies, looked strong through the first 5 innings as the Braves bats were held quiet by Arizona starter Josh Collmenter before running into a little trouble in the 6th with two outs, as he gave up a solo homer and a run-scoring triple, putting the Braves down 2-0.
The Braves got a little gift in the 9th when Justin Upton dropped Uggla’s popup, scoring McCann from 2nd, but it was all the Braves got that night, losing 2-1 and leaving Arizona on the heels of a two-game skid.
Friday, the Braves went into Anaheim for only the second time in InterLeague play, and both teams were coming off series they wanted to forget.
Before the game, Fredi Gonzalez mixed up the lineup, looking to jumpstart the offense against a solid pitching staff.
It mattered not, as Ervin Santana tossed a 4-hit shutout and his Angel teammates jumped all over Tim Hudson, scoring 6 runs in the 3rd inning before cruising to a 9-0 victory.
Hudson lasted just four innings before his day was done, but this was not the type of outing anyone expected to see out of the Braves starter.
Hudson hit three different Angel batters, as he struggled with his control, but still managed to throw 42 of his 77 pitches for strikes.
In Saturday’s contest, Tommy Hanson was shaky early, giving up a 2-run home run to Bobby Abreu before giving up 2 more in the bottom of the 5th, giving the Braves a 4-0 deficit.
All game, the Braves continued to get hits, but were unable to string a few hits together until the 7th inning after consecutive singles by Freddie Freeman and Alex Gonzalez brought Joe Mather to the plate.
Mather, filling in for Heyward who was scratched from the starting lineup with a sore shoulder, came through big, drilling Piniero offering to left field for a 3-run homer.
The Braves were not done yet, as Prado’s ground-rule double chased Piniero before McCann’s double to the gap in left center scored Prado and tied the game at 4.
Both bullpens battled until the 12th inning, was Gonzalez singled, brining up Mather one more time.
All Mather did was take the ball the other way, dropping it inside the right field line for a double of his own, scoring Gonzalez and giving the Braves a 5-4 lead.
In came Kimbrel, and the closer locked down the bottom of the 12th, earning the save and giving the Braves a huge come-from-behind win on Bobby Cox’s 70th birthday.
Sunday’s finale gave the Braves a chance to salvage a series win after a disheartening start to the series and the road trip.
The Braves broke through first after Freeman doubled and scored on Mather’s single.
But that was all rookie Tyler Chatwood allowed the Braves to get, as Derek Lowe gave up a 4th inning, 2-run homer to Torii Hunter, giving the Angels a 2-1 lead.
The Angels scored two more times, taking a 4-1 lead before their bullpen closed the deal, finishing off the Braves and sending them to Pittsburgh losing 4 of 5.
There wait the Pirates, who dropped the finale to the Tigers after winning 4 in a row.
In the first game Tuesday, given the task, once again, of getting the Braves back in the win column is Jurrjens, who will oppose former Brave Charlie Morton.
Both pitchers come in with records of 5-1, and Morton has been impressive of late, winning his last three starts and throwing a 5-hit, complete game shutout against the Reds in his last outing.
In Wednesday’s early finale (12:35 EST), the Braves will send Mike Minor to the mound in his second start of the season against James McDonald.
Minor took the loss in his only other start, a 5-4 loss to the Brewers before being sent down to AAA Gwinnett to make room for JJ.
McDonald won his last start against the Reds, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up just one run.
But for the Braves, this series is not just about the Pirates, it’s getting back on track after starting the month off hot.
Keys to the series:
- Don’t overlook the current series
- With a weekend series against the Reds, the Braves must focus on the Pirates, as strange as it sounds, because this is a young team that is playing good baseball of late
- Put the last week behind you
- It is never easy to swallow a loss, especially when they are strung together as they were, but it is only May, and the Braves look to be working out the kinks before a long summer
- Find the magic of May once again
- After starting the month off hot, the Braves have cooled down and are now 12-8 and 26-23 overall. Try and string together a few wins before a tough series against the Reds
Notes: The Braves placed Jason Heyward on the 15-day DL due to stiffness in his right shoulder.. Tim Hudson flew back to Atlanta to have his back examined. He was scheduled to start Wednesday in Pittsburgh.. Don Sutton threw out the first pitch in Sunday’s finale..McLouth strained his left oblique on the 4th pitch of Sunday’s game..