The Atlanta Braves don't like to make it very easy for themselves. At this point in the season, every game is a must-win for the Braves. However, they were unable to mount any sort of offensive attack as they fell 3-0 to the Washington Nationals on Sunday afternoon.
The Braves squandered the few scoring opportunities they had, and the Nationals used the long ball to score their three runs. With the St. Louis Cardinals defeating the Cubs later in the day, the Braves' Wild Card lead is now a meager one game.
Braves starter Mike Minor pitched a solid game, giving up a lone solo home run to Wilson Ramos and striking out five in 4 2/3 innings of work. Cristhian Martinez continued his good work out of the bullpen, but a two-run homer by Michael Morse put a damper on an otherwise stellar outing.
“He gave us an opportunity, and Cristhian did the same thing," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We had some opportunities early. If we capitalized, it might be a little different story. We had bases loaded, nobody out, top of the order, then second and third [with one out] and the top of the order and we couldn’t capitalize. That’s the way it goes sometimes. But I thought Minor did a terrific job."
The top of the third inning was a microcosm of the Braves' offensive ineptitude as of late. After Nationals starter Ross Detwiler gave up a single and walked Jack Wilson and Minor to load the bases with no one out, it appeared that the Braves might be able to put a crooked number on the scoreboard and take a comfortable lead. Unfortunately, Michael Bourn and Martin Prado both popped out and Chipper Jones grounded out to end the threat.
A similar situation arose in the fifth inning when the Braves had runners on second and third with one out, but Bourn and Prado were unable to deliver yet again.
“Everybody knows in baseball when you have an opportunity to score runs, opportunities like that, that you need to get those runs in," Dan Uggla said. "More than likely it’s going to come back to haunt you if you don’t. But it’s not an easy thing to do. They’re bearing down, we’re bearing down, and you’re not going to get the job done every single time. But right now, these next three games, we’ve got to get it done.”
The Braves only managed four hits during the course of the game. They have lost 15 of their last 23 games while hitting only .192 with runners in scoring position. The lone bright spot for the Braves was the return of Kris Medlen, who threw a perfect inning in his return from Tommy John surgery.
The Braves will come back home to finish off the season with a three-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies. With the Cardinals nipping at their heels and facing a lackluster Houston Astros squad, it is imperative that the Braves rise to occasion. The Braves will send Randall Delgado (1-1, 2.70 ERA) to the mound against Cliff Lee (16-8, 2.38 ERA) on Monday night at 7:10 EDT.
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