With the defending American League Champion Rangers at Turner Field over the weekend, the Braves knew they were going to have their hands full with the Rangers offense.
What they didn’t expect was their defense to flounder, committing three errors in each of the first two games and two in the finale.
The Braves fell behind early in the first game, ultimately losing 6-2 before battling back in Saturday’s game before losing in 10 innings, 5-4.
With the Rangers taking the upper hand in almost every category the first two games, the Braves sent Jair Jurrjens to the mound in Sunday’s finale, looking to keep pace with the Phillies as the two only teams in all of MLB to not be swept in 2011.
In Friday’s opener, the Braves sent rookie Randall Delgado to the mound, as he was making the first start of his career, going opposite Colby Lewis.
Top to bottom, the Rangers bring one of baseball’s best lineups to the diamond daily, and in his first start, Delgado remained poised while pitching 4 1/3 innings, giving up 4 runs on 7 hits while striking out 2 and walking 2.
Heading into the fourth inning, Delgado had been victimized by a Nelson Cruz RBI double before Brian McCann’s homer in the bottom of the 3rd tied the ballgame at 1.
But the 4th inning did not go as planned, as Brooks Conrad was unable to corral an Elvis Andrus grounder, bringing up the always dangerous Josh Hamilton. Hamilton deposited Delgado’s offering into the seats in right, putting the Rangers up 3-1.
The Rangers tacked on two more in the inning, building the 5-1 lead before Freddie Freeeman connected for a solo homer of his own, making it a three-run game.
That was all the Braves got that night, as former Brave prospect Neftali Feliz worked a perfect 9th in a no-save situation, giving the Rangers a 6-2 victory.
In Saturday’s game, the Braves took on another former prospect they said goodbye to in the Mark Texiera trade: Matt Harrison.
The Rangers gave Harrison an early 2-0 lead, taking advantage of two first inning errors and took a 4-0 lead in the 3rd before the Braves got their offense started.
Derek Lowe scored after Jordan Schafer reached on an error by Cruz before Dan Uggla drove Schafer in, putting the deficit at 4-2.
Another solo shot off the bat of McCann in the 6th made it a one-run game, and another double off the bat of Uggla brought Schafer home in the 8th, tying the game at 4.
But the Braves did not have the extra inning magic this day, as Ian Kinsler doubled to lead off the 10th before Adrian Beltre put the Rangers ahead with a single.
With the game in extra innings, Lowe did not factor into the decision, but pitched 5 innings, giving up 4 runs on 7 hits, striking out 2 and not allowing a walk.
Now in a save situation, Feliz again worked a scoreless final frame, earning his 14th save and handing the Braves another disappointing loss.
With JJ on the hill in the finale, the Braves knew they had a great chance to steal the finale of the series, but going against a very good pitcher in Alexi Ogando, the Braves knew they had to battle to earn their 40th victory of the season.
Both Jurrjens and Ogando looked good in the first two innings before the Braves struck for 3 runs in the bottom of the 3rd.
A catcher’s interference put Schafer on first and an Uggla single put runners on first and second before both runners advanced on a wild pitch.
A timely single off the bat of Jason Heyward scored both runners, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead. An error on a popup allowed Heyward to score from second, giving the Braves a 3-0 lead before Ogando was able to escape the inning.
The Rangers added a run in the 4th and another in the 7th, before Freeman’s ground-rule double scored Schafer, who had reached on a walk and stole second, a very valuable trait he possesses, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead.
Craig Kimbrel worked the 9th inning for his 19th save, but not without a little tension after Andrus reached on an error by third baseman Diory Hernandez.
Jurrjens worked 5 1/3 innings, giving up one run on 7 hits, striking out 4 and walking two while earning his 9th victory of the year.
The Braves are now on the final leg of the homestand, taking on the Toronto Blue Jays, who just signed former Brave Yunel Escobar to a two-year, $10 million extension.