05/29/08 12:30 AM ET
Road woes continue to pain Braves
Eighth-inning walk leads to only run of one-run loss
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Approximately 20 minutes after allowing Rickie Weeks to deliver an eighth-inning RBI triple that gave the Brewers a 1-0 win over the Braves, Boyer sat dejected at his locker. About 10 feet to his left stood Jo-Jo Reyes, whose latest baseball lesson had just taught him that even the best performances can equate to sour defeats.
"As a player right now, competitively, this is as frustrated as I've ever been," Boyer said as he and his teammates tried to figure out how they could have suffered yet another one-run loss on the road.
As Braves manager Bobby Cox evaluated his team's 10th loss in its past 12 road games, he would obviously remember Weeks' game-winner racing past third base and into the left-field corner. At the same time, he could wonder how Reyes could prove so effective and still receive no support from an offense that simply goes silent outside the Atlanta city limits.
All Reyes did was limit the Brewers to two hits over seven-plus innings and record a career-high nine strikeouts. But because of an eighth-inning leadoff walk to J.J. Hardy, the young southpaw lost for the third time in his past four starts.
"He produced strike after strike," Cox said of Reyes, who threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 25 batters that he faced. "For him, it was an excellent game."
While facing Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan, a pair of starters with ERAs above 4.50, in the first two games of this series, the Braves have totaled just two runs, and those came during the first two innings on Tuesday night. When Salomon Torres ended Wednesday with a perfect ninth, the Braves had been held scoreless for a 16th consecutive inning.
"We've got a great hitting team," Cox said. "We shouldn't be in any ruts."
If the Braves haven't been in a rut while going hitless in the eight at-bats they've had with runners in scoring position the past two nights, they must simply be away from Turner Field. Their schizophrenic offense has batted .307 at home and just .246 on the road.
Thus, maybe Reyes shouldn't have been completely shocked to suffer this tough-luck loss, despite the fact that he allowed just two hits. While he was dealing, his offense was watching Suppan allow the four hits and plenty of frustrating at-bats over eight-scoreless innings.
"We had the guys on," said Cox, who has seen the Braves lose 18 consecutive one-run road games dating back to last year. "We weren't able to get the hits we needed with two outs."
After surrendering Weeks' one-out, third-inning single, Reyes retired the next 14 hitters that he faced. At the same time, the 23-year-old hurler who has struggled with his control in the past, had issued just two walks. But four pitches into the bottom of the eighth, his night was over and Hardy was jogging to first with what would be the decisive walk.
"I didn't even know I had [retired] 14 straight," said Reyes, who had allowed seven earned runs in five innings against the Diamondbacks on Friday. "I just had to make my pitches."
Over the past week, Reyes has been treating a blister on his left index finger with Stan's Rodeo Cream, an ointment that he learned Josh Beckett used in the past. While the blister now appears healthy, the young southpaw is now looking to heal the psyche that is damaged during this kind of loss.
"It's a hard loss, not only for me, but for the team too," Reyes said.
Boyer surrendered a Jason Kendall sacrifice bunt and then struck out Joe Dillon. But before escaping the eighth-inning jam, he saw Weeks pull an 0-1 fastball past a diving Chipper Jones at third base. Hardy raced toward the plate and the Braves got ready to see their road record dip to 6-18.
"That's my job," Boyer said. "I've got to get my team and our starter out of that jam. It was close, especially, when dealing with inches."
Speaking of inches, one of the primary reasons that Suppan and Reyes combined for 16 strikeouts was the liberal strike zone provided by plate umpire Mark Wegner. While Cox didn't have a problem with it, Brian McCann voiced his displeasure after striking out three times in a game for the first time since June 29 of last year.
Suppan limited the Braves to just four hits over eight-scoreless innings. One of those hits was a Gregor Blanco infield single and two others were fortunate ones the Braves produced in the third inning. Chipper Jones singled off second baseman Weeks' glove with two outs in the third inning and then alertly sprinted to third base when Mark Teixeira followed with a bloop single to shallow left field. But this simply set the stage for McCann to follow with the first of his three strikeouts.
Because of his displeasure of Wegner's strike zone, McCann said he's not going to let this latest loss affect him. But as the road losses continue to mount, the Braves can only wonder how much deeper this slump can actually take them.
"We've got a great team," Boyer said. "It's just frustrating. But I promise you that we'll be there in the end."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.