06/01/08 6:00 PM ET
Rally in seventh not enough for Braves
Teixeira, McCann homer back-to-back, but Atlanta loses finale
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
But if their latest miserable road trip hadn't mercifully come to a close at Great American Ball Park on Sunday afternoon, they might not have continued to surpress the tremendous amount of frustration this year has brought.
"I'm really at a loss for words," said Jones, after the Braves suffered a 6-2 loss to the Reds and also potentially lost Tim Hudson for at least a short period with a strained left hamstring.
Hudson's hamstring pain was matched by the pain he and his teammates felt while winning just once and suffering four one-run losses during this six-game road trip.
"It's mind-boggling sometimes how good you can play at home and how putrid you are on the road," said Hudson, who believes he'll make his next scheduled start. "We've got to find ways to play better on the road."
Considering the Braves' pitching staff allowed only seven runs in their first three losses on the road, the pitching certainly wasn't to blame for their frustrating road trip. But because they scored two runs or less in four of the losses, there's certainly reason to point fingers at an offense that simply has proven to be anemic outside of Atlanta.
The Braves have hit .307 at home and .247 on the road. This could explain how they've been able to win 22 of their 29 home games and lose 21 of their 28 road games.
"We need to get a voodoo doll or something," Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson said.
While the road demons remained until the conclusion of this road trip, at least they didn't deliver what could have been a fatal blow. Through Sunday's first five innings, Reds rookie right-hander Johnny Cueto had a no-hitter brewing, providing reason to believe things actually could get worse for the Braves.
Gregor Blanco ended the no-hit bit by beginning the sixth inning with a bunt single that drew the ire of Reds shortstop Jerry Hairston Jr., who obviously didn't think a speedy outfielder had the right to obstruct history in a game where the difference was just three runs.
After Hairston voiced his displeasure in Blanco's direction, he came to the plate in the seventh inning and received some choice words from All-Star catcher Brian McCann.
"I wanted him to know we were still trying to win a ballgame," McCann said. "That's Blanco's game. It's not like it was me out there trying to bunt."
While Blanco thrives on his speed, one of McCann's best assets is his power, which he showed when he followed Mark Teixeira's seventh-inning solo homer with one of his own. Suddenly, Cueto's shutout bid was gone and the Braves were facing just a one-run deficit.
But the bottom of the seventh provided a fatal blow, as Hudson exited with a strained left hamstring and right-handed reliever Blaine Boyer, who has made a team-high 31 appearances, exited with a sore right knee. Both pitchers will be evaluated on Monday in Atlanta.
Yunel Escobar's throwing error helped the Reds score three times in the seventh inning, which was highlighted by a Jay Bruce RBI single. Since making his Major League debut on Tuesday, Bruce has recorded 12 hits in 22 at-bats. During this weekend's series, he had nine hits, including two homers, in 13 at-bats.
Under better circumstances, the Braves might have been heaping praise on Bruce, who hit a walk-off homer on Saturday, then touched Hudson for a third-inning solo shot on Sunday.
But given their frustrations, it was natural to hear Hudson respond sarcastically to a reporter's question about Bruce.
The righty quipped, "I saw Ted Williams up there in every at-bat of every series. Is that what you want me to say?"
Hudson, who had thrown 121 pitches during a tough-luck loss in Milwaukee on Tuesday, allowed four runs -- three earned -- and seven hits in six innings. He suffered the hamstring injury while throwing his first pitch in the seventh inning.
After surrendering solo homers to Adam Dunn and Bruce and also seeing Brandon Phillips and Ken Griffey Jr. collect consecutive third-inning doubles, Hudson righted himself. But the Braves couldn't get on track against Cueto, who had gone 2-5 with a 6.33 ERA in his previous nine starts.
"We faced a guy who can't stop backing up third base when he's facing other teams, and then he goes out there and has a no-hitter into the sixth against us," Hudson said.
Whether it was Hudson, Jones, McCann or Cox, the immense amount of frustration the Braves felt on Sunday was evident. But at least for now, they're keeping their composure and not creating any postgame clubhouse spectacles.
"The frustration is at an all-time high," Jones said. "But fighting amongst ourselves and confronting people about their play is not going to do it. It's just going to make things worse. I've just got to go out and lead by example, and maybe things will turn around."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.