After a weekend where everything seemed to go right, the Atlanta Braves failed to finish off a four-game road sweep of the Houston Astros on a night where nearly everything went wrong.
Derek Lowe had yet another outing where his sinker did not live up to its name. He got touched up for two runs in the third inning before getting chased from the game after 5 1/3 innings of work. He gave up five runs on eight hits in the Braves' 8-3 loss. He fell to 3-5 on the year, and his ERA is now at 4.02.
Lowe gave up a two-run opposite field home run to Astros right fielder Hunter Pence in the third inning on a letter-high fastball. The homer was Pence's ninth of the year; he finished 3-for-4 with four RBI.
The bottom of the sixth proved much more difficult on the Braves' pitching staff as the Astros sent 10 men to the plate and five runs across it.
Brett Wallace doubled home Brett Keppinger with no one out in the inning. After a Chris Johnson ground out and a single by J.R. Towles, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez opted to go with reliever Scott Linebrink.
Linebrink then allowed both of his inherited runners to score on an RBI double by Matt Downs and a sacrifice fly by Clint Barmes. Pence then polished off his four-RBI night with a single to left that scored Downs and Michael Bourn, who also stole his 27th bag of the year.
George Sherrill then gave up a run on three hits in the seventh, while Scott Proctor gave up a hit in the eighth to bring the Astros' hit total to 14 for the game.
The Braves, on the other hand, showed good patience in drawing four walks from Wandy Rodriguez in his six innings of work. However, they only managed two hits off him – one of those a double by Lowe – and left eight men on base while going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Rodriguez improved to 4-3 with a a 3.13 ERA.
Center fielder Jordan Schafer continued to make a case for himself staying when Nate McLouth comes off the disabled list in the ninth inning when he hit a three-run homer, his first of the year. Schafer finished the night 2-for-5 with three RBI and a run scored.
Freddie Freeman's weekend struggles at the plate continued. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and has one hit in his last 12 at bats. He has struck out seven times in that stretch.
The Philadelphia Phillies were idle Monday, so the loss dropped Atlanta to 2.5 games back in the National League East hunt. The Florida Marlins lost their third straight game to the Arizona Diamondbacks, dropping them under .500 and 7.5 games out.
The loss was the first time the Braves had given up at least seven runs since May 20, when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put up nine runs in a shutout.
The Braves finished their road trip with a 7-3 record and return to Atlanta to face the New York Mets on Tuesday.
In the first game of the series, the Mets will throw John Niese (5-5, 3.51 ERA) against Jair Jurrjens (8-2, 1.82 ERA0, who seeks to strengthen his case for an All-Star appearance and Cy Young Award.
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