Braves fall to Brewers again

Braves drop finale to Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- It began auspiciously, with two wins over the Mets, but by the time the Braves concluded their disappointing 10-day, eight-game road trip, those two victories were simply distant memories.

While winning just three of the trip's eight games, the Braves were burdened by a slumping, injury-depleted offense. The pitching was superb, and, up until the finale at Miller Park on Wednesday afternoon, the defense was rather solid.

Despite receiving Jorge Sosa's finest start of the season and producing two ninth-inning runs off the usually impenetrable Derrick Turnbow, the Braves still weren't able to prevent being swept for the first time in a three-game series against the Brewers.

Errors by Chipper Jones and Adam LaRoche, combined with Lance Cormier's sudden loss of control, proved too much for the Braves to overcome in the frustrating 5-4 loss to the Brewers.

"This trip feels like it has lasted a month," LaRoche said after playing a large part in the fact that the Brewers scored four unearned runs. "That's what happens when you lose, stuff gets drug out."

When a struggling Jeff Francoeur provided an RBI triple and scored on Brian McCann's sacrifice fly to deep right field in the ninth inning, the Braves had a chance to head back to Atlanta with an uplifting comeback victory. But Turnbow, who hadn't allowed an earned run in his previous nine appearances, rebounded and secured the one-run victory.

"We've lost a lot of tough games," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, whose team is 4-7 in one-run games this year. "As bad as it was going today, we battled back and could have won it."

Like the rest of the other 10 one-run games they've experienced during the first 21 games of this season, there were distinct turning points. At first it appeared LaRoche's fourth-inning throwing error or Chipper Jones' bobble of a two-out grounder in the sixth would prove to be the difference.

But because of the comeback, the decisive run actually came in the seventh inning with the help of the three consecutive one-out walks Cormier issued in a span of 16 pitches. The right-handed reliever blamed his inability to locate his cutter.

Cormier was replaced by Mike Remlinger, who surrendered a Prince Fielder RBI single before effectively limiting the damage with the bases-loaded situation he inherited. But that one run proved to be the difference in a game where the Braves' usually dependable defense proved generous.

"We normally don't make errors," Cox said. "Today it cost us."

While lasting five innings for the first time in four starts this year, Sosa showed glimpses of being the 13-game winner that he was a year ago. But after LaRoche's throwing error on a potential double-play grounder, the right-hander made a critical mistake on an 0-2 pitch to Corey Koskie.

Koskie took advantage of the perfectly placed fastball and drilled it over the wall in right-center field for a two-run homer that capped Milwaukee's three-run fourth inning. None of those runs would have been scored if LaRoche's throw to second base wouldn't have been offline.

"I threw to the inside of the bag, and the second I released the ball [shortstop Wilson Betemit] moved to the outside of the bag," LaRoche said. "It wasn't a great throw, but there was a little miscommunication on top of it. It's a tough play. I didn't think when I did it, it was going to cost us as bad as it did."

Jones' inability to field Chad Moeller's two-out grounder in the sixth inning added another unearned run to Sosa's line. The right-hander allowed five hits in 5 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 10.45 to 6.89 since he didn't allow an earned run.

When he saw Braves media relations assistant Adam Liberman in the clubhouse after the game, Sosa clearly made it known that he didn't want to talk to reporters, even with the help of an interpreter.

As for Milwaukee starter Ben Sheets, he had no problem talking after striking out nine and allowing just two earned runs in six innings. The only runs the Braves tallied against him came courtesy of Marcus Giles' third-inning single and LaRoche's sixth-inning double.

For the most part, it was simply another frustrating afternoon for the Braves, who compiled just a .196 batting average during the eight-game trip. This marked just the second time in their past 10 games that they scored as many as four runs. They reached that total during each of their first 11 games this season.

"It's not fun," LaRoche said. "But we can't quit. We still have a lot of ball left. We can't let this eat at us."

On the positive front, both Giles and Chipper Jones returned to the lineup this week after missing time with injuries. Edgar Renteria will be back in the lineup on Friday, when the Braves began a three-game series against the first-place Mets, who will be coming to Atlanta looking to avenge the two losses they suffered in last week's series at Shea Stadium.

Of course, to some Braves, those two wins over the Mets seem like they might have come a month ago, or at least some time before this trip began.

"I wouldn't have even known that if you didn't just tell me," LaRoche said. "It feels like we might have won one game on this entire road trip."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.