The Atlanta Braves hadn't lost a series to a National League team since mid-May. They've now lost two series in a row.
The Nationals won today in rainy Washington DC behind Scott Olsen, Mike Morse, Ian Desmond and Will Nieves. So as you can imagine, it was pretty frustrating day.
Derek Lowe started for the Braves and pitched decently, but his struggles to put away hitters continued. It seemed like Nats hitters were getting big hit after big hit with two strikes. Lowe ended up going 5 innings and allowed 4 runs, and picked up his 9th loss of the season.
Scott Olsen was on the mound for Washington and pitched 6 strong innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned), on 6 hits and 2 walks. The vastly under-rated Nationals bullpen shut down the Braves for the 3rd straight game for the final three innings. Matt Capps finished the Braves in the 9th for his 26th save of the season.
The Nats got on the board first in the 2nd when Michael Morse grounded out to Omar Infante to bring in Adam Dunn from 3rd. Then, after it appeared Derek Lowe had Ian Desmond struck out on the previous pitch, Desmond hit a solo-HR to center field on a 3-2 pitch.
Matty Diaz continued to kill left-handed pitching and hit a 2-run HR off of Scott Olsen to tie the game 2-2. Diaz has played in 20 games since his thumb injury and has 5HRs and 11RBI in that span.
Our $60MM ace promptly broke the tie in the bottom of the 4th, when Will Nieves drove in two runners with an RBI-single to right. It was a questionable call by Bobby to pitch to Nieves with one out and 1st base open, especially with Scott Olsen and the light-hitting Nyjer Morgan coming up next.
The Braves failed to score after the 4th inning and Adam Dunn added an insurance solo-HR in the 8th off of Takashi Saito.
Nats win 5-3.
Another tough loss for the Braves. After the jump, I'm going to say a few things about this current team. Read them if you'd like and discuss. If not, skip over to the comments.
My question is this: Where are the Braves going to get their spark from? I know we simply cannot follow what the Phillies are doing, but the fact is that they're our biggest competition for the playoff hunt and in the NL East. In the last 24 hours, they've added a top-prospect in Brown and one of the better pitchers in baseball in Roy Oswalt. Shane Victorino will be back within two weeks and we all know Chase Utley is coming back eventually. And this doesn't include any other possible moves they could make before the trade deadline.
The Braves got a huge spark in May when Bobby brilliantly inserted Prado and Heyward to the top of the lineup, along with starting Eric Hinske against all right-handed pitchers. We're in 1st place because of that move alone. I also know we just got Jurrjens back to the rotation, along with Matt Diaz, but I still feel like this team is missing "it". The problem is, I'm not exactly sure what "it" is.
One problem I see is the Braves have no ML-ready prospects they're waiting to call up for this season. Freddie Freeman is probably ready, but unless Glaus really gets hurt, I don't think there's any chance we call him up. Craig Kimbrel could be a power arm out of the pen, but a 7th inning reliever can only bring so much. Our outfield is already crowded as it is, and while they're a solid 4th OF, a guy like Gregor Blanco or Matt Young isn't really going to excite anybody.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: This is Bobby Cox's final season. He's a legend. We'll never have another Bobby. And while we certainly don't want to make a stupid move to severely cripple our future, I keep getting the feeling the Braves are going to stand pat at the deadline. This team could win a World Series. Win a World Series for Bobby and for Chipper. Win one for every Braves fan that's been through hell since 2006. I don't want to look back on the 2010 season as a year of "what if's" and "shoulda, woulda, coulda....". Maybe Frank Wren needs to deal one of his top, young prospects for a proven Major League veteran. Maybe this team needs a little spark and a little "win now" mentality from the Front Office. I think most Braves fans agree that this team is just a little something away from being great. Let's hope we find that little something soon.