The Principality

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Rout By Cardinals Puts Losing Streak At Eight

A week is a long time in baseball, just ask the Atlanta Braves.  Eight days ago they sat atop the NL East having just left Tampa with a hard-fought series win.  Now they are mired in their longest losing streak since April 2010.  With Turner Field basking in the Memorial Day sunshine, the Braves sent Tommy Hanson to the mound to face Lance Lynn and the St Louis Cardinals and try to stop the rot.  Instead, Hanson endured his shortest and roughest outing of the season, with Atlanta losing 8-2 and increasing the losing streak to eight games.

It never looked like being Hanson’s day, even though he escaped the first two innings unscathed after stranding four baserunners, including a bases loaded with nobody out situation in the first.  The Cardinals would catch up to him in the third inning.  After striking out Skip Schumaker to begin the inning, Hanson then sandwiched a walk between two singles to load the bases again.  Brian McCann, back in the starting lineup following a week with flu, then completely misjudged Hanson’s curveball to Yadier Molina, the passed ball allowing Matt Holliday to score the first run of the game.  Fortunately for the Braves, they did catch Carlos Beltran in a rundown trying to score from second, or else the damage could have been much worse. 

However, it did get worse for Hanson.  Molina singled to bring home Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso followed up with his second home run of the season to make it 4-0.  Hanson would come back for the fourth inning, but after allowing a home run to Rafael Furcal, followed by back to back walks to Schumaker and Holliday, his day was done.  It had taken him 92 pitches to record just ten outs.  Hanson was charged with 6 earned runs on eight hits.  He walked three and struck out six.

Given the Braves recent offensive struggles and facing Lynn, who was looking for his eighth win of the season, the game looked all but over.  To their credit, the Braves rallied briefly in the bottom half of the fourth inning.  Juan Francisco’s two-run single scored Uggla and Heyward, but that was essentially all the offense could muster against Lynn and from then on, the Cardinals were in cruise control.  Lynn improved to 8-1 following seven solid innings in which he gave up two earned runs on five hits, walking one and striking out eight.  The Cardinals would add on another couple of runs in the sixth inning off Kris Medlen.

The loss leaves the Braves reeling in fourth place in the NL East, tied for last place with Philadelphia.  "I don't think anyone is panicking right now," noted Hanson. "Obviously when we come to the field, we want to win and we want to win that night. But nobody is panicking around here. We're still above .500 right now. As soon as we start playing good. ... We were just in first place."  Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny had some comforting words for the home clubhouse too.  "You just go through those streaks all the time, good and bad.  That was just an aggressive display of an offensive approach [by the Braves] when we were in St. Louis. That's the kind of offense we were giving people headaches with. That offense has great potential. They have a good pitching staff. It's a good team. They're just going to go through the peaks and valleys."

Though bolstered by the return of McCann Atlanta will also look forward to the return of both Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman, both of whom have also been sidelined during the losing streak with a bruised ankle and vision problems, respectively.  "We were rolling," said McCann. "We were in Tampa and Chipper went down and Freeman went down and I went down. That's 4, 5 and 6 out of the middle of the order. You take that out of anybody's lineup, the team is going to suffer. We've just got to stay afloat. We got ourselves off to a really good start and we hit a bump in the road right here. We have to bear down and start winning some games." 

The Braves are under no illusions as to the task ahead and will look to set the record straight tomorrow, when Randall Delgado (2-5) takes the mound against Jake Westbrook (4-3).

 

Andrew Bracegirdle

28th May 2012