Hanson falters as Braves lose San Diego finale

Hanson falters as Braves lose San Diego finale

Hanson falters as Braves lose San Diego finale
SAN DIEGO -- After stumbling through the early portion of a long coast-to-coast road trip, the Braves positioned themselves to produce an encouraging conclusion. But thanks to a couple defensive blunders and another less-than-impressive Tommy Hanson start, they will return to Atlanta feeling the effects of an ugly loss.

Chipper Jones and Paul Janish nearly collided while attempting to catch a routine pop fly at the start of two-run fifth inning that added to Hanson's troubles and propelled the Padres to an 8-2 win on Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park.

"It's a frustrating end to the road trip, especially with a play like that, and then you compound it," Jones said. "We don't field a bunt right after that. Then, all of a sudden a one-run lead is a three-run lead."

Instead of providing themselves a chance to return to Atlanta in celebratory fashion, the Braves showed the wears of this 10-game road trip and a stretch of playing a game on 20 consecutive days.

The Braves had plenty of cause for concern after losing for the eighth time in their past 12 games. Hanson's fastball command was once again inconsistent as he lasted fewer than five innings for the third time in his past six starts. In addition, an offense that totaled four runs during this three-game series was unable to take full advantage of opportunities in the fifth and sixth innings.

"We're a pretty good offense," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You've got to give a little credit to the Padres with the way they pitched us. But we've got to get it going a little bit."

Having hit just .211 over their past 12 games, the Braves have not recently had the ability to overcome the number of costly mistakes that were made in the fifth. It all began when Janish got too close to Jones as the veteran third baseman was about to catch Everth Cabrera's routine pop fly.

"I heard him right at the last second," Jones said. "How many times do you see somebody call it right at the last second and then both guys shy away and it drops? I wasn't going to let that happen. It's just one of those unfortunate tweeners that didn't go our way. Not much else did either."

After Cabrera reached with a two-base error, Hanson compounded the situation by allowing Will Venable's popped up bunt to hit the ground and bounce out of his reach. That play bothered Gonzalez more than the one involving Jones and Janish.

"We've got to get an out there, or at the very least, catch it in the air," Gonzalez said. "We didn't do that. They scored two."

Padres starter Eric Stults limited the Braves to one run after an error put runners at second and third base with no outs in the fourth inning. But Hanson, who has posted a 6.69 ERA in his seven starts since the All-Star break, was not able to follow suit.

Once Cabrera opened up first base by swiping second base, Hanson had the chance to pitch around Chase Headley, the most dangerous hitter in San Diego's lineup. But after falling behind 3-1, he worked the count full and then was victimized by his current inability to command his fastball, as Headley grounded a two-run single through the right side.

"I just wanted to execute my pitch," Hanson said. "It was a fastball inside. I was thinking black-to-off and it stayed inner-third."

Hanson pitched around the four hits he surrendered in the first three innings and then issued a leadoff walk in the two-run fourth inning. If Ben Sheets had not been placed on the disabled list, Hanson might not be entering September in the rotation.

"His fastball command is the issue," Gonzalez said. "It's not going where he wants it to go. Some of the balls are being left over the plate, or he's walking guys with his fastball."

Unfortunately for the Braves, they did not have many opportunities against Stults, who allowed one unearned run and five hits in six innings.

After the Braves loaded the bases against Stults in the sixth inning, Gonzalez chose not to pinch-hit for Janish. The shortstop responded by popping up a first-pitch slider.

Gonzalez's decision was influenced by the fact that Stults entered the game having limited left-handed batters to a .129 (8-for-62) batting average. While Janish had some success against southpaws earlier this month, he is now hitless in his past 15 at-bats against them.

If the Padres had gone to a right-handed reliever in that situation, Gonzalez was ready to counter with Freddie Freeman and send Martin Prado to the shortstop position.

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