With or without Chipper Jones, pitching is always vital to win, but the Atlanta Braves dropped the second game of their three-game interleague series with the Tampa Bay Rays due to some shoddy pitching on the part of Randall Delgado.
The Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead at Tropicana Field when Juan Francisco recorded the third straight Braves hit to start the second inning against the season debuting Alex Cobb to drive in Brian McCann. Eric Hinske followed with a sacrifice fly, but that was all the Braves could muster in support of a shaky Delgado.
Delgado got through the first inning in order, but started the second inning by walking Carlos Pena and Luke Scott. He was bailed out two batters later when Pena tested Heyward's arm on a Will Rhymes flyball, getting gunned down at the plate. The next inning would not be so kind.
Elliot Johnson started the third inning with a walk, Chris Gimenez singled, and Ben Zobrist moved them over with a weak grounder back to the pitcher. Yet another walk by Delgado to B.J. Upton set up Matt Joyce blasting a 2-0 fastball over the center field wall for a grand slam to give the Rays a lead they would hold on to in the 5-2 ballgame.
The four inning, four run effort dropped Delgado to 2-4. He surrendered five walks and only threw first pitch strikes to 10 of the 19 batters he faced. Since starting 2-0, Delgado has lost four straight decisions and has not won since April 17.
The Braves fell to 6-11 without Chipper Jones in the lineup, compared to a 19-5 record when he plays. He was forced to sit out with a left calf contusion from a hard hit ball from B.J. Upton on Friday night.
Sunday's rubber game will feature a solid pitching matchup in Tim Hudson toeing the rubber against David Price in a 1:40 start.
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