Braves' early lead evaporates in Philly
Atlanta relievers allow five home runs, 12 unanswered runs
PHILADELPHIA -- Publicly, Braves general manager Frank Wren hasn't conceded anything yet. But while attempting to determine the pulse of his team this weekend, he certainly would have been justified to deem all postseason hopes to be dead.
Continuing to prove capable of providing a tease, the Braves began this weekend with a win and concluded it by squandering sizeable leads in consecutive losses. Their latest setback came at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, when they wasted a five-run lead and suffered a 12-10 loss to the Phillies.
"We keep finding ways to lose," said Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira, who reached safely in each of his four plate appearances on Sunday. "It's just very frustrating, because it seems like whenever we're not pitching, we're hitting and when we're not hitting, we're pitching. That's been the story of the year."
With losses in the final two games of this series, the Braves still are looking for their first winning road trip of the season. With Thursday's Trade Deadline looming, this isn't a time when they can at least take solace in the fact that they split this six-game road trip that pitted them against the Marlins and Phillies.
Nor was it a time when they could even enjoy the fact that they totaled 27 runs this weekend. They surrendered far too many and because of that they headed back to Atlanta 7 1/2 games back in the National League East standings. When the trip began, they faced a 6 1/2-game deficit.
"It was a tough road trip," said Mark Kotsay, whose first-inning RBI double off Joe Blanton gave the Braves a 2-0 lead on Sunday. "We could have easily gone 5-1 and we go 3-3. That's the game of baseball. Your offense shows up and the part of the team that has been strong all year fails."
All season long, Wren has been pleasantly surprised that his pitching staff has overcome numerous significant injuries and statistically encountered plenty of success. But this weekend proved to be much different.
The only question was whether it was more demoralizing for the Braves to squander Saturday's six-run, fourth-inning lead or the five-run, fourth-inning advantage that they had on Sunday.
"I think today's game was more hurtful than [Saturday's]," said Chipper Jones, who missed the series with a strained left hamstring that could force him to the disabled list as early as Monday.
When the Braves begin a four-game series against the Cardinals on Monday, they'll likely send Charlie Morton to the mound. Instead of making his scheduled start on Monday, Jo-Jo Reyes was forced to enter Sunday's game after a one-hour, 57-minute rain delay forced Jorge Campillo to exit after holding the Phillies scoreless for 1 2/3 innings.
Although he issued a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk to Adam Eaton to load the bases in the second, Reyes didn't incur any damage until the fourth, when he surrendered a two-run Chris Coste homer and a game-tying three-run shot by Shane Victorino, who further damaged the Braves during a sixth-inning collision that left Brian McCann with a headache and mild concussion that could put him on the bench with Jones this week.
"I just have to put it all together," said Reyes, who has posted an 8.73 ERA and allowed 34 hits with 16 walks in the 22 2/3 innings he's totaled in his past six appearances (five starts).
After the Phillies battered Reyes, Pat Burrell greeted Julian Tavarez with a fifth-inning solo homer that gave them a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Down, 5-0, entering the fourth, they scored 12 consecutive runs before the Braves attempted a comeback during a five-run eighth that was highlighted by Martin Prado's pinch-hit three-run double.
"In this ballpark, you're not going to hold [the Phillies down forever]," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, whose team is 2-10 against the Phillies this year. "They didn't hold us down. We came back. But they got the wins the past two days."
Long before Prado's double, Royce Ring and Blaine Boyer were punished during a five-run sixth that proved painful to the Braves from both a mental and physical perspective. Victorino scored that inning's final run with a clean collision that caused McCann to briefly lose consciousness.
"It was clean," Cox said. "There was nothing dirty about it. [Victorino] had no choice."
Such can not be said of Wren, who has plenty of choices to make before Thursday's Trade Deadline. Obviously, many are wondering where Teixeira might land and others are thinking that lefty reliever Will Ohman could potentially prove to be a key addition to a contending team's bullpen.
But Wren hasn't waved the white flag on this season yet, and even with the demoralizing losses they experienced these past two days, the Braves players are still holding out hope with the understanding that time might have already run out.
"As a general manager, manager or player, you never lose hope and you never give up," Kotsay said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.