Braves held in check by Lee, drop third straight

Braves held in check by Lee, drop third straight

Braves held in check by Lee, drop third straight
ATLANTA -- For manager Fredi Gonzalez, the time for hat tipping has passed. It is time for the Braves to step up and produce the way they are capable, no matter if they're facing Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, as they did Saturday, or a journeyman starter.

Lee silenced Atlanta's bats for seven innings, and the Phillies beat the Braves, 5-1, in front of 44,749 fans at Turner Field. It was the Braves' 10th loss in 14 games.

During their recent downturn, the Braves have scored fewer than five runs 10 times. They average 4.54 runs per game this season.

"It's easy to say it's the other pitchers, the other pitchers are better than us or tip your hats, but enough of that," Gonzalez said. "We need to take care of our end of the bargain and get better at-bats and get some hits with runners in scoring position."

Against Lee, the Braves were unable to get anything going. Typically efficient, Lee needed just 93 pitches to get through seven shutout innings before a cramp in his left hamstring forced him out of the game.

The Braves were unable to advance a runner into scoring position with fewer than two outs and didn't take advantage of the few scoring chances they did have against Lee. Both times the Braves got a runner in scoring position against Lee, he retired Brian McCann to end the inning.

In the fourth, McCann came up with two outs and runners on the corners but flew out to center field. In the sixth, the Braves had the bases loaded, but Lee escaped the jam, getting McCann to pop out to shortstop Jimmy Rollins in shallow left field.

McCann is mired in a month-long slump (he is hitting .171 since the start of August), and Gonzalez wasn't surprised the game found a way to send him to the plate in such key situations.

"It always seems that way," Gonzalez said. "The baseball gods, they find you."

Lee allowed five hits and struck out five batters. He said his recipe for success Saturday was pretty much the same one he's used throughout his 11-year career.

"I felt like I was locating pretty good," Lee said. "Mixing offspeed pitches and staying out of the heart of the plate, and when you're doing that, it's hard to hit that. That's really what it was."

Once Lee exited the game, Martin Prado was able to get the Braves on the scoreboard with his second home run in two days. It was the first time Prado had homered on back-to-back days since July 23-24, 2010.

After scoring five runs in Friday's 8-5 loss, Prado said he's not concerned about the Braves' offense. And though Gonzalez is ready to stop tipping his cap, Prado said that was all the Braves could do Saturday.

"Yesterday we had a pretty good game offensively," Prado said. "But today was one of those games where you've got to tip your hat. [Lee] was pretty good."

While the Braves' offense was scuffling yet again, right-hander Tim Hudson was having struggles of his own. Hudson said he had his worst stuff of the season Saturday and had to fight to make it through five innings, allowing five runs.

"Honestly, I wasn't very good today," Hudson said. "They caught me on a bad day, and it was a one-sided ballgame."

After elevating Hudson's pitch count early in the game, the Phillies threw their knockout punch with a series of well-placed singles in the sixth inning to load the bases. Lee came to the plate and worked a walk, bringing home the Phillies' fourth run of the day.

Hudson said it was frustrating to end his day with a walk to the opposing pitcher, especially because he felt like he had Lee struck out on a pitch the umpire called ball four.

"It was a close pitch," Hudson said. "Obviously, I didn't hit my spot, but a strike's a strike."

By that time, however, the Phillies had all the runs they would need. With Lee shutting the Braves down, Hudson said he knew he would had to have pitched much better to win.

"That's one of those days where if I was good and I gave up one or two, we'd probably still lose," Hudson said. "He was really good today."

Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.