Tommy Hanson was on his game this afternoon, but the Braves offense stranded too many runners and Alex Gonzalez made a crucial error which lead to the Reds go-ahead run. Brandon Phillips dropped a triple just out of Jason Heyward's reach and then Orlando Cabrera rolled over to Gonzalez but he couldn't transfer the ball from his glove hand and Cabrera reached safely at first.
That shouldn't have been a game-changing play. The Braves squandered chance after chance and left 11 players on base. They went 1-10 with runners in scoring position, with the one hit being a first inning infield single by Omar Infante. The Braves only had four hits but walked seven times, eight if you include when Gonzalez was hit by a pitch. In each of the first three innings, the Braves stranded two runners. It was a pitiful offensive display against a weak pitcher in Edinson Volquez and some average bullpen arms. Gonzalez plated the Braves only run with a solo shot in the second, his first as a Brave.
Hanson pitched into the eighth inning and allowed just six base runners. He only walked one batter and struck out five. Only one of the two runs scored were earned against Hanson, who has continually been let down by poor defense this season. His ERA is now down to 3.83 and he has looked very good on the mound in his past three starts, allowing just four earned runs over 20 innings. Over those 20 innings, Tommy has struck out 18 and walked just three batters.
Infante had two hits while batting third, and Brooks Conrad walked twice in the leadoff spot. In his Braves debut, Rick Ankiel walked in his first at bat then failed to reach base in his next three plate appearances. Chipper Jones pinched hit in the seventh inning with two men on but flew out to shallow right field, ending the threat. Brian McCann walked twice, surpassing his season total of last season on the first day of August.
Obviously, this was not a good way to end the road trip. The Braves lost all three series, winning just one game in each. There really was no excuse to lose this afternoons game. Despite having an odd lineup, the team should have scored more runs and if Gonzalez fields the routine grounder cleanly, the entire dynamic of the game is changed. The pitching matchups for the Mets series aren't terrific. The Braves run into Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, and Mike Pelfrey while the Mets miss Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens. Hopefully, the Braves can get their bats alive when the get back to Turner Field. The Phillies won today, making the Braves division lead shrink to just 2.5 games.