Braves shut down by Peavy
Atlanta blanked for second time in first four games of road trip
SAN DIEGO -- With this being a weekend that could potentially define how their roster looks for the remainder of this season, the Braves could have done without an encounter against Jake Peavy. But then again, the way their offense is going right now, their only obvious relief appears to be the upcoming All-Star break.
When the Braves take four days off during next week's break, they'll have time to rest their tired bodies and spend time with some family members. During this slumber, their offense has a chance to be just as productive as it's been while being victimized by two shutouts in the first four games of this road trip.
Yet another road trip that could have potentially turned things around already has proved to be like most of the previous frustrating ones. While being handcuffed by Peavy in Friday night's 4-0 loss to the Padres at PETCO Park, the Braves guaranteed that they'll return from the All-Star break still looking to record their first winning road trip of the season.
"Slowly but surely, we're starting to get exposed," said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, while moving closer to the concession tone that has been created with the prolonged futilities this week has brought.
Once again falling victim to a lack of run support was Jo-Jo Reyes, who surrendered two earned runs in five hits while battling his control and throwing 64 pitches in just four innings. The Braves have scored an average of 1.13 runs in the 23-year-old southpaw's eight losses this year.
While losing for the third time in the first four games of this road trip, the fourth-place Braves fell a season-high 7 1/2 games behind the front-running Phillies in the National League East race. They are now closer to last place than they are first place.
As the odds to advance to the postseason decrease, there's a growing likelihood that Mark Teixeira, left-handed reliever Will Ohman and some others could be in the midst of their final weeks in Atlanta.
"If we get to the trade deadline 10 [games out], I'm sure we will be sellers, as opposed to buyers," Jones said. "The bottom line is that we haven't been able to recover from the early-season injuries."
It might take some time for the Braves to recover from the mental beating they've suffered while hitting .179 in the past four games. Because Brian McCann was building his three-hit night, Peavy didn't have a chance to make the perfect-game bids that Hiroki Kuroda and Derek Lowe enjoyed against this offense in Los Angeles earlier this week.
But while allowing just four hits over seven scoreless innings and lowering his NL-best home ERA to 1.45, Peavy was in total control. The only extra-base hit he surrendered was McCann's second-inning, one-out double, which stands as the only hit the Braves have recorded in 49 combined at-bats during the first four innings of the first four games of this trip.
"It's like old days with the Giants and Dodgers, when teams had to come out west to face [Juan] Marichal, [Gaylord] Perry, [Don] Drysdale and [Sandy] Koufax," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "That's what it looks like to me right now."
The Braves' best scoring chance against Peavy came when a Brent Lillibridge bunt moved runners to second and third with two outs in the fifth inning. Knowing runs were going to be at a premium and his team already trailing by two runs at that time, Cox called for this bunt with the plan to replace Reyes with a pinch-hitter.
Greg Norton, who had two hits in five previous career at-bats against Peavy, assumed that pinch-hit role and flied out to left field to end the inning.
"We took a shot there," Cox said. "But Peavy is tough, especially in this ballpark."
Jones, who entered the game with six hits, including three homers, in 12 career at-bats against Peavy, contributed a sixth-inning, infield single that stands as his only hit in 14 at-bats during this road trip. But the All-Star third baseman also ended the top of the eighth when he grounded into a double play against Heath Bell with runners at first and second base.
"You've got to give some credit to the pitchers," said Jones, whose Major League-best batting average rests at .373. "I can only tell you how I am being pitched. I haven't seen a pitch over the middle of the plate in a week. I'm being pitched really tough."
The Braves were somewhat fortunate that their early deficit wasn't greater. Reyes allowed leadoff triples in both of the first two innings and still didn't surrender his second run of the evening until the Padres collected three consecutive one-out hits, including an Adrian Gonzalez RBI single, in the third inning.
Reyes escaped the second-inning threat with a double play and then minimized damage with another twin killing to end the third inning. But he still created a deficit that grew when left fielder Gregor Blanco allowed Jody Gerut's two-out, sixth-inning single off Buddy Carlyle to skip past him.
The blunder allowed the Padres to add two more runs and comfortably complete their win against a Braves offense that has seemingly already entered the All-Star break.
"You've to tip your cap [to the opposing pitchers]," Cox said. "I hate to keep saying that. But it's a matter of fact."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.