The Principality

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Braves Frustrated By Rain, Nationals

Atlanta's first trip of the season to the Nation's capital has not exactly gone as planned.  After a disappointing week, which saw the Braves swept by Florida and beaten in Pittsburgh, the team was hoping for some success against the team with the National League's worst record, in the Washington Nationals.

After Game 2's loss, Tuesday, the series is already gone and the Braves have been unable to capitalise on Florida being swept in Pittsburgh.  Instead, they have fallen to 6-8 and fourth place in the division, still five games back of the Marlins.

That is not to say that the Braves have been outplayed.  The curse of the one-run game has reared its head again in both the opening two games of the series, the Braves falling 3-2 and 4-3 respectively.  It has been an enourmously frustrating task for the hitters, who are all desperately searching for form.  Add to that lengthy rain delays in both games and you are left with a team that looks tired and ready for an off-day on Thursday.

Tuesday's game saw Kenshin Kawakami take to the mound against Shairon Martis.  The Japanese hurler did not pitch badly, but struggled in the sixth inning, pitching to three hitters and not recording an out.  The first of these hitters was Adam Dunn, who hit his fourth home run of the season.  In total, Kawakami gave up four runs (two earned) on seven hits and three walks, striking out two.  It may be fair to say that Kawakami has not yet lived up to the expectations of the Braves fans.

Offensively, the Braves struggled to convert opportunities into runs once again.  Kelly Johnson went 0-4 and Matt Diaz 0-3, despite homering in Game 1.  In total, the Braves left 8 runners stranded over the course of the evening, but none more frustrating than in the ninth inning.  The first two hitters reached base and with runners on second and third with nobody out, Greg Norton grounded out, Kelly Johnson gave up a soft fly-out to centre field and Yunel Escobar grounded out to end the game.

Manager, Bobby Cox, was in a reflective mood following the game "We didn't play a real clean game tonight", he noted.  "The game's over if Escobar's line drive's not right at their second baseman," Cox said. "We finally got something going real good, and a line drive right at him. It's just unfortunate."

Misfortune has been plaguing the Braves in one-run games for some time now.  For some reason there seems to be a barrier stopping the Braves from coming out victors in these scenarios.  Blown saves, runners left on base, it has all been happening.  However, these are the games that define a season and are the difference between making the play-offs and fourth place.  The Braves need to find a solution and quickly.

Wednesday's Game 3 sees the Braves aim to stop a sweep in the third game for the third series in a row as Jair Jurrjens (2-1) opposes John Lannan (0-2) in a 7:05pm start.  The Braves will be hoping that Jurrjens can repeat the form he showed against Pittsburgh in his last start and that the weather stays dry if they are to get something out of this game.

Andrew Bracegirdle

22nd April 2009