Braves handed another one-run road loss

James HulkaAnalyst IJuly 10, 2008

The Braves had two good swings the whole night on Derek Lowe. Tim Hudson only made two bad pitches. Unfortunately for the Braves, that still translated to another tough loss on the road.

In extending their Major League record for consecutive one-run road losses to 24, the Braves again couldn't get timely hitting to back a solid pitching performance.

Hudson needed to be perfect because the Braves offense didn't help him out. His only big mistake was the 3-1 pitch that Matt Kemp hit for a homerun in the sixth inning.

He didn't make a bad pitch to Andruw Jones on 0-2 in the 7th, but the struggling Dodgers outfielder chased a pitch that happened to get too much of the plate, and wound up in center field bringing in the eventual winning run. The pitch was outside, but not far enough off the plate that Jones couldn't reach it.

Bobby Cox made the right call, walking a .300 hitter and All-Star Russell Martin to bring the .167 hitting Jones to the plate. Hudson just couldn't put him away.

I'll give credit where credit is due. Kuroda andLowe were down in the strike zone and pitching to contact. They got a lot of ground balls which made their nights easier. There were no opportunities against Kuroda on Monday, but the Braves (specifically Chipper Jones) missed a golden opportunity Wednesday.

Chipper Jones has been having a stellar season. This series, however, is one he'd like to forget. I'm sure he's well aware that was his chance to get in Blanco from third with only one out in the 7th, and didn't even need a hit to do so. A ground ball not at somebody or a fly ball to the middle of the outfield would've done the trick. Tonight, his 0-for the series came back to bite the Braves.

How about this bit of irony. The Jones hitting .167 with 8 RBIs the whole year needed a hit and was down 0-2 and came through. The Jones hitting .375 with 50 RBIs didn't even need a hit, and still failed to get the run home.

It's been a telling story lately. The Braves have played 18 games since June 20, which was the first game at home against the Mariners. They are 7-11 in that stretch, with losing records at home (5-7) and on the road (2-4). The output of the offense explains the story.

In games the Braves score three runs or less, their record is 0-10. When the Braves score 4 or more runs their record is 7-1, the lone loss being the 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays on June 28.

Six of those 10 losses where the Braves scored three runs or less, the pitching held the opposition to four runs or less.

The pitching has actually been pretty decent during these last three weeks. The Braves held the Brewers to 10 runs, only 8 earned, but still lost two of three. In this series, the Braves held the Dodgers to a total of 8 runs on 17 hits, and outscored the Dodgers in the series 10-8, but still lost two of three.

Hudson's had his bad starts, but the offense and the bullpen have cost him at least three wins this year (tonight, at Chicago, home vs Phillies).

About the only positive to come out of this series was that Jeff Francoeur came back from his weekend playing at AA Mississippi with a fresher approach and better plate awareness.

True, he went 2 for 8 in the series, but along with Gregor Blanco had the only good swings off Derek Lowe all night. He took a sinker out of the zone then when Lowe got a sinker a bit up and in his powerhouse, he blasted it over the left field wall.

Prior to his demotion, he was taking fastball strikes early in the count, swinging through fastballs he'd normally crush, and looked absolutely clueless against mediocre breaking pitches. His pitch recognition the last two games has been better.

Lowe made a nice play to rob him of a potential hit in the 2nd inning tonight, and although he struck out once last night, it wasn't one where he looked lost at the plate.

The Braves need something positive to take out of this series because the offense's continued Jekyll and Hyde act isn't going to lead them anywhere except 75-ish wins, a lot of frustrated fans, and the third straight October watching the playoffs from home.


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