Soriano can't hold lead as Braves fall

Soriano can't hold lead as Braves fall

MIAMI -- This wasn't exactly the most opportune occasion for Rafael Soriano to finally prove mortal while blowing a ninth-inning lead that Garret Anderson had just provided. But as Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell learned during his playing days, life as a closer is far from completely kind.

As the Braves were still feeling some of the excitement that Anderson produced with his go-ahead ninth-inning homer at Land Shark Stadium on Tuesday night, they were bitten by the shock created by Ross Gload's walk-off two-run homer that allowed the Marlins to celebrate a 4-3 win and move into sole possession of second place in the National League East race.

"It's part of being a reliever, especially a closer," McDowell said after Soriano suffered his second blown save in 16 opportunities this year. "This is a tough one to take at this time of year, especially the way the game went."

Soriano had made 28 appearances since last surrendering a homer, and Gload had played 27 games since he'd last cleared the outfield wall. But while taking advantage of a misplaced 3-1 fastball, the Marlins' pinch-hit ace forced the Braves' closer to feel some of the frustration that he'd successfully avoided most of this season.

When approached after the game, Soriano limited his message to, "I've been doing this all year and nobody comes to me and says nothing."

Since suffering his only previous blown save on May 13, Soriano had posted a 1.52 ERA and limited opponents to a .211 on-base percentage over 28 appearances. But the early indications that this outing might prove different surfaced when Soriano issued a four-pitch leadoff walk to Cody Ross.

"I thought we played great," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The strike zone was tight with balls on the knees all night long. Raffy could have had at least one strikeout on the first hitter and maybe not have walked him. That count should have been 2-2 on the pinch-hitter Gload, and it's a different story."

After losing for just the fourth time in the 13 games they've played since the All-Star break, the Braves didn't focus on the fact that they were unable to take advantage of the fact that the National League Wild Card-leading Rockies had lost and provided them a chance to move within two games of that top spot.

Instead, Cox and Jair Jurrjens focused most of their frustration toward plate umpire Jerry Meals' strike zone.

"I don't have a clue where the strike zone is anymore," Cox said. "It's supposed to be low and high and nothing on the corners. It's all over the place right now."

After Jurrjens escaped a couple of jams and managed to limit Flordia to the two runs it gained courtesy of the defensive lapse that led to Hanley Ramirez's third-inning double, Atlants found itself in position to win courtesy of Anderson's prolonged dominance of Marlins right-handed reliever Leo Nunez.

Anderson, who is now 4-for-5 with two homers in his career against Nunez, gave the Braves a short-lived ninth-inning lead by drilling a changeup into the right-field seats. The veteran left fielder's eighth homer of the season allowed Atlanta to regain the lead it had lost in the third inning when he and center fielder Nate McLouth were unable to catch Ramirez's third-inning two-run double that landed between them on the left-center-field warning track.

Cox said that both outfielders seemed to lose the ball in the lights. Jurrjens, who was denied his bid to win a fourth consecutive start, simply drew the conclusion that Ramirez had proven fortunate.

"I thought it was a fly ball," said Jurrjens, who pitched around doubles he surrendered in the fifth and sixth innings. "I don't know what was going on there. I didn't think he hit it so good to be a double."

Playing in his 200th career game against the Marlins, Chipper Jones tied the game at 2 when he drilled Ricky Nolasco's first pitch of the sixth inning into the right-center-field seats. It was the veteran third baseman's fourth homer in nine games.

But instead of celebrating the leadoff homers that Jones and Anderson had provided, the Braves found themselves dwelling on the unforeseen one that Gload drilled off Soriano.

"If you saw some of the pitches that Sori made before he walked the guy, I thought he threw some pitches that could have been strikes," Jurrjens said. "Then that made him throw a pitch down the middle. It wasn't the smartest pitch. ... But that's what happens when an umpire has a small strike zone. It makes you groove a pitch, and that's what he did."

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