When this week began, the Atlanta Braves had not been swept in a three or four-game series all season. They have now been swept by the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals in back-to-back three-game sets.
Tim Hudson had one of his worst starts of the season, and the Braves fell 6-3 to the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. It was a very atypical start for Hudson, as he gave up six earned runs in six innings while striking out four. The Braves were able to claw back a little, but their efforts weren't enough to mount a serious threat as the Cardinals pulled within 4 1/2 games of the Braves' Wild Card lead.
The numbers on Hudson don't tell the whole story. It was a scoreless game going into the bottom of the third inning. Hudson started the inning by hitting Daniel Descalso on the foot. After a sacrifice and a groundout, it seemed that Hudson would get out of the inning unscathed. Hudson then hit Jon Jay to put runners on the corners, and Albert Pujols knocked in the first run of the game with a single.
While the two hit batsmen were very uncharacteristic of Hudson, his struggles that inning were exacerbated by two walks, one of which was with the bases loaded. Yadier Molina then closed the book on the inning with a three-run double.
“Well, I made my bed," Hudson said. "I set ‘em up. If Albert hits that ball a little better, it’s a zero in that inning and you never know what could have happened. But he looped it in, score a run. The bases-loaded walk really hurt, and obviously the bases-loaded, bases-clearing double was the backbreaker. Then it was try to have some damage control, work later into the game and save the bullpen. Obviously 5-nothing early in the game, you don’t want to kill your bullpen after that.”
The Braves were able to put a few runs on the board, but the lead was simply too much to overcome. Freddie Freeman and Matt Diaz each drove in a run, and Chipper Jones hit a solo homer, his 17th of the season.
Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook had a solid outing, going 5 1/3 innings and allowing only two runs. Jason Motte struck out the side in the ninth inning to record his fifth save.
Cristhian Martinez threw two perfect innings for the Braves, allowing the rest of the bullpen to get some needed rest.
The Braves are simply struggling right now in all facets of the game, as the offense, pitching, and even the bullpen are not performing to their normal standards.
"Man, we better forget it, because it was brutal," Jones said of the road trip. "We did nothing right. We didn't pitch, we didn't hit … I guess we played OK defense. But when this team's playing well, we throw strikes, we get outs, we get runners in from third with less than two outs. And when we don't, it's pretty ugly."
The Braves will look to the right the ship at home against the Florida Marlins. Atlanta will send Brandon Beachy (7-2, 3.29 ERA) to the hill against Chris Volstad (5-12, 5.37 ERA) on Monday at 7:10 EDT.
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