Braves rally before falling to Rangers
Atlanta sees progress as 10-game trip comes to an end
ARLINGTON -- Had the Braves simply buried their heads after getting swept out of Chicago last week, few would have been surprised. The start of a road trip had continued the futility of the previous ones and also forced manager Bobby Cox to place Tom Glavine on the disabled list for the second time in his career.
When the Braves traveled back to Atlanta early Thursday evening, they were wearing bruises that extended beyond the one that still sits below Chipper Jones' right eye. But even after suffering a 5-4 loss to the Rangers at Rangers Ballpark on Thursday afternoon, they still headed home feeling like they'd at least made progress.
"You have to crawl before your can walk," said Jones after providing the reminder that before going 4-6 on this current trip, the Braves had won just seven of the 28 road games they'd played.
With four wins in the final seven games of the trip, the Braves did at least show some progress. But when Michael Young singled home Ian Kinsler to officially conclude this trip and give the Rangers a chance to celebrate a walk-off victory, the Braves actually found themselves with that same frustrating feeling that has been around them far too often.
"We've played excellent," said Cox, whose team has had a losing record on every road trip this season. "We're just giving it up late or just not adding on the runs later."
Young's game-winner to right field off Jeff Bennett provided the Braves their 22nd straight one-run loss on the road. According to The Elias Sports Bureau, this stands as the longest such skid in Major League history. Regardless of where the games have been, the Braves have won just three of the 22 one-run contests they've had this season.
"I don't really care about all of that record stuff," Jones said. "I concern myself with all of the losses we've had in the close [games]. But there's a bright side to that."
It was obvious Jones was much more concerned with one-run losses than the fact his 0-for-4 performance on Thursday dropped his Major League-leading batting average to .394. This marks the first time since April 12 he's hitting below .400, and if he never reaches that mark again the rest of the season, he says he won't be the least bit upset.
In fact, Jones told his parents earlier this week he'd be happy when he dipped down below the .400 mark and didn't have to get daily reminders about a chase he felt was impossible for him to complete. His right quadriceps muscle has provided some limitation, and Jones said his current 5-for-27 skid is a result of him not having a good sense of the strike zone.
This is just something he encounters on a yearly basis and has nothing to do with the fact he hit a ball on Friday night that ricocheted off the batting cage and landed just below his right eye.
"Now it's time to start a new streak," said Jones.
When Jones' first-inning sinking liner turned into a double play because of Yunel Escobar's inexplicable decision to challenge Josh Hamilton's arm by tagging and going to third with two outs, the Braves began to get a sense of what they'd be facing all day.
They managed just two runs in seven innings against Scott Feldman and lost an early 2-0 lead when left-handed reliever Jeff Ridgway's third pitch of the afternoon was deposited into the left-field seats for a sixth-inning three-run homer by Brandon Boggs.
|"It would have been nice to get this one today. But we didn't exactly get the hits when we needed to -- myself included."|
|-- Jeff Francoeur|
After the game, Ridgway, who was kept on the roster instead of Phil Stockman on Wednesday, said he was embarrassed about the one pitch that prevented Charlie Morton from winning both of his first two Major League starts. Morton allowed just one run despite issuing consecutive one-out walks in the fifth inning. But a bunt single and a walk to begin the sixth ended the 24-year-old right-hander's day and set the stage for Boggs, who went to Pope High School in suburban Atlanta.
"I thought I did a decent job of minimizing damage in the fifth inning," Morton said. "Then I give up a bunt single and walk a guy in the sixth and leave with two runners on and nobody out. That's a problem."
After a Greg Norton double, a Jeff Francoeur infield single and an Omar Infante sacrifice fly allowed the Braves to tie the game in the ninth against closer C.J. Wilson, Blaine Boyer was brought out to work a second inning -- and that proved to be a problem. Boyer surrendered a leadoff double to Kinsler, who raced home when Young hit his game-winner to right field two batters latter.
Momentarily, it looked as though Francoeur might be able to test his strong arm and possibly retire Kinsler at the plate. But in his hurry, the Atlanta right fielder never gained control of the ball and never was able to attempt a throw.
Francoeur's ninth-inning infield single erased some of the sting he's felt during a road trip in which he had 10 hits in 40 at-bats. Still, he was among those who squandered many early opportunities on Thursday. He popped out in foul territory by the first-base bag in the fourth inning with one out and Kelly Johnson on third base.
Feldman issued three walks in the third inning and still the only run he allowed came when Francoeur scored on a Corky Miller double-play groundout. That inning ended with Jones following consecutive two-out walks with a lazy infield pop fly.
"It would have been nice to get this one today," Francoeur said. "But we didn't exactly get the hits when we needed to -- myself included."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.