Braves drop finale to Brewers

Braves drop finale to Brewers

ATLANTA -- No one can criticize the Braves for leaning so heavily on their farm system in the first half of 2005.

The rookie class has mostly played to rave reviews as the newcomers helped second-place Atlanta enter the All-Star break just 2 1/2 games behind National League East-leading Washington, but the newcomers' inexperience fueled an 8-4 loss Sunday to Milwaukee.

"We wanted to take this series," said manager Bobby Cox, whose team has lost two straight yet still won 50 games at the break for the 10th time since 1991.

"But with everything involved, we've had a nice first half."

Starter Roman Colon (1-5) allowed five runs -- three earned -- in 4 1/3 innings, third baseman Andy Marte committed two errors and Kelly Johnson was hitless in five at-bats after striking out with the bases loaded in the eighth.

Such mishaps overshadowed Rafael Furcal's first career five-hit game. The shortstop went 5-for-5 with a solo homer, a double and three singles, finishing just a triple shy of a cycle.

Wasting that was difficult enough, but even right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who forced a 2-2 tie with a two-run homer in the second and threw out Brady Clark with a one-hop throw in the sixth, struck out three times.

"Everybody's got to come together," center fielder Andruw Jones said. "You can't wait for me to hit a home run, everybody's got to pull together and that's why we're winning. The next home series we're going to face the team in first place, and we can battle with those guys with a better team."

Abundant injuries to veterans like Chipper Jones, Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton brought the rookies to Atlanta, but Cox began the day hoping that his seasoned players would be ready to return during the early part of the second half.

Unfortunately, another concern arose when closer Chris Reitsma, beginning the ninth with a three-run deficit because he hadn't pitched since Thursday, had to leave the game after J.J. Hardy ripped a hard line drive into the right side of his abdomen.

Reitsma, who earlier allowed Bill Hall's RBI double to end the scoring, recovered to pick up the ball and throw out Hardy, but trainer Jeff Porter soon escorted him off the field. X-rays taken at Turner Field were negative pending further evaluation.

"The first X-rays didn't show a fracture, but they always don't show up," Cox said. "He didn't get a glove on anything. He got hit around the lower ribs. I don't know if he's gonna be available in New York or not, but if it's broken, he's certainly not. We'll wait and see."

Furcal raised his average 11 points to .254. His teammate's problems with runners in scoring position allowed him to score just one run.

Colon showed none of the staying power he flashed in a 5-1 victory Tuesday over the Cubs. Coming off that seven-inning effort, Colon was down 2-0 through the first two innings on Geoff Jenkins' RBI groundout and Russell Branyan's solo homer.

Of the Braves' six relievers who worked Sunday, only Jim Brower, who pitched a scoreless eighth, was effective. Milwaukee's bullpen supported left-hander Chris Capuano (10-6) with four shutout frames.

"The reality is Milwaukee's been playing really good baseball, and our bullpen hadn't been giving up anything," said ace John Smoltz, who didn't play. "They're a good team. I wouldn't want to face them going into the playoffs trying to get a win."

Marcus Giles showed strong baserunning skills in the third. After his leadoff double, Giles beat throws from right fielder Jenkins twice that inning and scored on Julio Franco's sacrifice fly.

George Henry is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.