You could say that the Braves had a bit of bad luck when the Phillies demoted struggling Brett Myers to AAA Lehigh Valley earlier this week, and instead they sent Cole Hamels out on regular rest to face the Braves tonight in the finale of a three-game series at Turner Field.
The rest was just the Braves not getting it done on either side, leaving Bobby Cox looking for answers.
Tuesday night saw Charlie Morton give up six straight hits to start the third inning, as the Braves dug themselves too deep a hole to get out of. Couple that with going hitless in their first 10 at-bats of the evening with RISP, and that's a formula for a loss.
Wednesday night was another punchless evening for the Braves, as homers by Chipper Jones and Ruben Gotay proved meaningless because no one got on base in front of them against Adam Eaton. The same Adam Eaton with a grand total of two wins and an ERA of 4.86 coming in to the night.
The Braves had 10 baserunners against Eaton, and only got two of them in, no thanks to Jeff Francouer who has seen his batting average fall like President Bush's approval rating during 2007.
Maybe Frank Wren should send Francouer down, because grounding into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs is nothing short of a rally killer.
Tonight, the Braves actually got a pretty decent pitching performance from Jair Jurrjens. True, he gave up three home runs, but they were all solo shots, and he did make it through seven innings.
The Braves offense really has no excuses. Cole Hamels is a great pitcher, but they were nearly shut out by him twice in a row. The Braves had their regular starting lineup each of the last two nights, and they still couldn't put anything together. Four runs in two games, and a total of seven in three games won't get it done.
The loss puts the Braves at their season's worst, six games under .500, stretching their losing streak to five. They've lost eight of nine to the Phillies this year, including all six at Turner Field. They're not looking like a team who's going to have a winning record this year, let alone make the World Series.
I wrote in another article a few days ago that the Braves needed to win eight of 12 to be above .500 at the All-Star break. Sure they could do it, but getting swept at home to a team you're chasing is unacceptable if you're trying to narrow the gap.
They've still got to face Jake Peavy, but having Roy Oswalt's start pushed back so that he won't be facing the Braves this weekend could go either way. He's been an ace, but the Braves have a good record against him, and he's been struggling all year.
Andruw Jones and Nomar Garciaparra will be back for the Dodgers when the Braves travel to LA, starting a series on Monday. Big names, yes; however, punchless would describe those two bats so far this year.
Will the Braves win eight of nine? They could, but in order to do so, they've got to do everything they didn't do against the Phillies and then some. If they can't finish the first-half strong, there might be a number of changes coming. Stay tuned.