One-run Games Killing Braves' Season

James HulkaAnalyst IJuly 7, 2008

It's no secret that the Braves are a Major League worst 5-21 in one-run games in 2008. Sunday's 7-6 17-inning win was just the second extra inning win for the Braves this year in nine tries, the other being last month when Yunel Escobar hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning to beat the Marlins after John Smoltz blew a 9th inning lead.

Since his return, Mike Gonzalez has been pretty solid as the closer while Rafael Soriano's elbow keeps chirping at him and John Smoltz walking around with a brace on his arm after shoulder surgery.

However, the Braves closers haven't had that many chances to save games, because the offense hasn't come up with the big hit, or one of the set-up men surrenders runs that tie the game or gave the opponents the win.

Let's look at how each of those 21 one-run losses happened.

1) March 30. Nats - 3, Braves -2.

Tim Hudson struggles early, but goes eight innings giving up only those two runs. Braves second run scores on passed ball.

Culprits: Offense, Peter Moylan.  Chipper's HR is the only RBI for the Braves in game. They got a total of five hits off of Odalis Perez and four Washington relievers. Moylan's flat slider gives Zimmerman easy pitch to slam for walk-off win.

2) March 31. Pirates - 12, Braves - 11.

Tom Glavine pitches OK, Braves rally for five in the 9th to tie it.

Culprits: Blaine Boyer, Manny Acosta—Acosta gave up four earned in 2/3 of an inning on homeruns by Xavier Nady and Nate McLouth. Boyer got the loss, giving up a two-out, 3-run homer to Nady in the 12th, only to see the Braves score two in the bottom half and lose by one.

3) April 3. Pirates -4, Braves - 3.

Jeff Bennett does OK as Hampton gets injured during pre-game warmups.

Culprits: Martin Prado, Corky Miller, Will Ohman, Chris Resop—Prado's error and Miller's passed ball gave the Pirates an extra out and extra base in the 7th, and Ohman gave up the single that tied the game. Resop walked two in the tenth, one of them scoring the winning run, as Miller allows another passed ball.

4) April 7. Rockies -2, Braves -1.

Tom Glavine gives up only three hits and outduels Aaron Cook into the 7th and leaves with 1-0 lead.

Culprit: Blaine Boyer—The Rockies only had six hits the whole game, two, including Matt Holliday's two-run homer coming in the decisive 8th inning. Offense only got three hits, but bullpen had the lead and gave it up.

5) April 8. Rockies -4, Braves -3.

Jair Jurrjens pitched pretty well, only giving up four runs in seven innings at Coors Field.

Culprit: Offense—Only getting three runs and six hits off Ubaldo Jimenez (currently 3-8, 4.50ERA, 1.55 WHIP) was not enough. Francoeur went hitless, including twice with RISP, that wound up getting stranded.

6) April 13. Nats - 5, Braves - 4.

Trying to get a road sweep in Washington, Tom Glavine can't find the plate, and then leaves with a strained hamstring in the 1st inning, when the Nats scored twice.

Culprits: Tom Glavine, Jeff Bennett—Glavine left the bullpen with a mess, giving up 3 hits and a walk and not getting anyone out. Bennett got out of a jam there, but walked four in the 2nd inning, two of them with 2 outs and the bases loaded.

7) April 16. Marlins - 6, Braves - 5.

Braves get 9 hits, and all position players reach base safely, scoring five runs.

Culprit: Tim Hudson - Hudson's velocity was down for some reason, and he was flat. Put stress on the bullpen only going 3 innings, giving up four earned runs.

8) April 26. Mets - 4, Braves -3.

Offense couldn't get much going, scoring no more than 1 run in any inning.

Culprit: Tim Hudson - Hudson had one bad inning, but that was enough to lose the game. He gave up 7 hits total, and all 4 runs scored in the 3rd inning, which was all he made it through.

9) April 30. Nats - 3, Braves - 2.

Jair Jurrjens was stellar, only giving up 2 hits and one run in 7 innings. Braves scored in the 12th to take a 2-1 lead.

Culprit: Manny Acosta-Sure the offense could've scored more, but Acosta was awful in the 12th. He walked the leadoff hitter, gave up an infield hit, made a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt, then walked in the tying run.

10) May 9, Pirates - 3, Braves - 2.

Braves lose 3rd one-run game to Pirates, only scoring twice while Ian Snell walks six in 7 innings.

Culprits: Offense, Jeff Bennett-Bennett gave up two straight hits with 2-out in the 9th as the Pirates won in walk-off fashion. Francoeur had an RBI, but two other times he came up with RISP and made an out, and Mark Kotsay did the same one batter later.

11) May 13. Phillies - 5, Braves - 4.

Braves score three in the first inning, but get shut down by Kyle Kendrick until 2 outs in the 9th.

Culprits: Jo-Jo Reyes, Jorge Campillo-Reyes minimized the damage, but still gave up five runs and 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. Campillo allowed Reyes' last inherited runner to score with 2 outs in the 7th, allowing what would be the winning run to cross the plate.

12) May 17. A's - 5, Braves - 4.

The Braves scored 3 times in the 9th off Huston Street, but couldn't muster anything against Rich Harden.

Culprit: Tim Hudson- Hudson's struggles against the AL in Interleague continued, giving up two homers and walking in a run in the first 3 innings. He gave up all five runs, five hits and five walks in 5 innings.

13) May 27. Brewers - 3, Braves - 2.

Braves get solo homers from Blanco and Johnson early, but pitching can't hold the lead.

Culprits: Jeff Bennett, Bobby Cox- Bennett failed to watch the runner who wound up scoring the winning run in the 9th. Hudson pitched a great game, but loaded the bases with 2 outs in the 8th. Cox didn't get a fresh arm in the game as Hudson gave up the tying run.

14) May 28. Brewers - 1, Braves - 0.

Braves get shut out spoiling a great effort by Jo-Jo Reyes.

Culprits: Offense, Brian McCann, Umpire Mark Wegner- Reyes outpitched Suppan as Suppan gave up 4 hits and 5 walks in 8 innings, but the Braves couldn't get those runners in. McCann argued too long about a few awful strike calls when he was at-bat in the 8th before striking out. Mark Wegner's strike zone was inconsistent, but let his argument with McCann from the previous half-inning to spill over to the first hitter in the bottom of the 8th. He allowed his anger to get in the way of calling a fair game, and the runner who walked, later scored the game's only run.

15) May 30. Reds - 3, Braves -2.

Tom Glavine matches Edison Volquez as the game is tied 2-2 after seven. Jay Bruce scores the winning run in the 11th.

Culprits: Chipper Jones, Jeff Bennett- Chipper had a rare bad game, but this one was really bad. He went 0-5 with a strikeout, hit into 2 double plays and let a hit and an error get by him in the 11th. Bennett didn't get help from his defense, but didn't get a batter out and all 3 hitters hit him hard to score the winning run.

16) May 31. Reds - 8, Braves - 7.

Offense gets homeruns from Teixeira, Francoeur and Norton, but Jay Bruce again scores the winning run in extras.

Culprits: Rafael Soriano, Manny Acosta-Jurrjens pitched poorly, too, but so did the Reds' Josh Fogg. Soriano blew the save in the 9th failing to look a runner back to 3rd, and then watched Acosta give up a walk-off HR to Bruce in the 10th.

17) June 6. Phillies - 4, Braves -3.

Hudson pitches a stellar game into the 8th, and the Braves have a lead after getting a couple of runs off Jamie Moyer. The Braves rallied against Lidge in the 10th, only to have a perfect throw from CF Shane Victorino cut down Blanco at home with the potential tying run.

Culprits: Kelly Johnson, Manny Acosta-This one was painful, as Johnson dropped a pop fly that should've ended the game with the Braves up 2-1. Instead the tying run scored, and Acosta compounded the problem by giving up 2 runs and getting just 1 out in the 10th.

18) June 12. Cubs - 3, Braves - 2.

Jeff Francoeur's 2-run homer in the 2nd off Carlos Zambrano gave the Braves the early lead, as Hudson pitched into the 7th outdueling Zambrano. Another excruciating loss this time trying to avoid the sweep.

Culprits: Offense, Blaine Boyer, Manny Acosta-The Braves had 11 hits, and left 14 runners on base. Boyer blew the save by giving up the tying HR to Edmonds in the 9th. Acosta faced 3 batters in the 11th, walking two and giving up a hit, and Jeff Ridgway hit Reed Johnson to force in the winning run.  

19) June 19. Rangers - 5, Braves - 4.

The Braves rally to tie the game in the 9th against a shaky Rangers bullpen, then give up winning hit to struggling Michael Young in the bottom half.

Culprits: Charlie Morton, Jeff Ridgway, Blaine Boyer, Jeff Bennett-Morton didn't pitch altogether poorly, but, again, a sudden loss of control blew the game for him. After a bunt, he walked the next batter, and then watched Ridgway give up a 3-run homer to a pinch hitter. Boyer gave up a double leading off the 10th, and Bennett surrendered the winning single 2 batters later.

20) June 24. Brewers - 4, Braves -3.

Charlie Morton pitched OK, and Teixeira hit a 2-run HR in the 9th to make it close, but no Chipper in the lineup meant another loss.

Culprit: Defense - Errors in the first inning by Escobar and Francoeur led to two unearned runs. Morton settled down a bit after that, but the 4 Brave errors in the box score stick out.

21) June 29. Blue Jays - 1, Braves - 0.

Jo-Jo Reyes was again superb, giving up only one run on six hits in 7 innings, but lost his 2nd 1-0 game this season.

Culprit: Offense- AJ Burnett was sharp for the Jays, only giving up 4 hits and striking out 11 in 7 innings, but that doesn't mean the Braves didn't have their chances. They went 0-7 with RISP, striking out 4 times and hitting into one double play.

The Braves' five one-run wins came against San Diego, Houston, Florida, Oakland and Seattle. Francoeur's offensive struggles are mostly hidden in these games as it was difficult to single him out in almost all of the one-run losses.

Now being realistic, you can't expect to win all of the one-run games. However, eight or nine of those 21 losses were games the Braves should have won.

Even if we go with eight that changes the Braves record to 13-13 in one-run games, which is decent for a team that is supposed to be a playoff contender. What would the record be instead? Try 50-39 instead of 42-47.

You can't understate that difference. They'd be a first place team right now, in the hunt for the best record in the NL with the Cubs and Cardinals.

Starters are going to have rough days once in a while, same for the bullpen. However, losing seven games in extra innings and others where the team had a lead in the eighth inning or later just can't happen if you're going to call yourself a playoff team.

Games Two (home vs Pirates), Four (road vs Rockies), Nine (road vs Nats), 13 (road vs Brewers), 16 (road vs Reds), 17 (home vs Phillies), and 18 (road vs Cubs) were all ones where the Braves had the lead in the 8th inning or later only to lose in walkoff fashion or in extra innings. Two other one-run losses to the Pirates were ones where the bullpen was asked to keep a game tied late, and didn't.

So what players are most responsible for the Braves having the worst record in MLB in one-run games?

Blaine Boyer—4

Jeff Bennett—5

Manny Acosta—5

Tim Hudson has been overall pretty good this season, same with the offense, but at times they just have been terrible. To be a good team, you have to win the close ones, which the Braves have failed at miserably, for a number of reasons, the bullpen being the biggest one.


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