Encouraging road trip ends on sour note

Braves drop four of last five to split 10-game swing

Encouraging road trip ends on sour note

WASHINGTON -- Given the state of their depleted starting rotation, the Braves probably should feel fortunate to have split a 10-game road trip that included stops in St. Louis, Milwaukee and Washington. But as they exited Sunday's 9-1 loss to the Nationals and prepared to fly back to Atlanta, they certainly weren't feeling as enthusiastic as they had at the start of this weekend.

"It would have been nice to win this, take the series and have a winning road trip," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. "But overall, [the trip] could have been better."

When the Braves won four of this trip's first five games, they were in the midst of a seven-game stretch within which their makeshift rotation (Mike Foltynewicz, Tyrell Jenkins, Rob Whalen, Joel De La Cruz and Roberto Hernandez) combined to compile a 3.20 ERA.

There certainly wasn't reason to believe this success was sustainable, but at the same time, the Braves would have liked to avoid the frustration that was felt as their starters produced a 10.03 ERA while they lost four of the final five games.

"I think we're going in the right direction," Jenkins said after allowing seven earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings on Sunday. "Obviously, we wanted to end on a better note, but there is a lot more energy in the dugout and guys are having fun and the bats are coming alive."

Aybar's RBI single

After beginning this trip by going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in a 1-0 loss to the Cardinals, Freddie Freeman went 13-for-28 and hit five home runs over the past nine games. The Braves have also seen Adonis Garcia, Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte produce an OPS above .800 since the All-Star break.

Offense hasn't been a recent concern and the concerns regarding the pitching staff could start to evaporate as both ace Julio Teheran and reliever Arodys Vizcaino are expected to return from the disabled list by the end of this week.

Despite owning Major League Baseball's worst record most of this season, the Braves aren't interested in any consolatory compliments. They have gone 26-28 since June 15, and 11-8 since July 26. There is a genuine desire to finish this season strong and carry optimism into the offseason.

Kemp's stellar catch

"We'll get some of those guys back, those arms, and that's always going to help," Braves left fielder Matt Kemp said. "[Teheran] is one of the best pitchers in the league. That definitely is going to help. We'll see where we go. I feel if we finish strong and show everybody what we're capable of doing, you take that into next year and we can become a lot more dangerous team."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.