Missed opportunities bring Braves' streak to end

Missed opportunities bring Braves' streak to end

Missed opportunities bring Braves' streak to end
MILWAUKEE -- Stranded runners, outs on the bases and walks. Too many of each cost the Braves in Monday night's 4-1 loss to the Brewers.

Despite coming up with 10 hits, including three in the fourth inning, the Braves scored just one run and did not have an RBI. Running into four outs, including three in the first four innings, was the beginning of the offensive troubles, and stranding seven while hitting 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position added to them.

"We had 10 hits. I thought we swung the bats pretty well," said third baseman Chipper Jones. "But we scattered them really, really well."

But it was a pair of walks and a crucial error on an ill-advised throw in the seventh inning that proved to be the difference. After surrendering a leadoff single and a walk, Jonny Venters threw wildly past Jones at third base on a sacrifice bunt, allowing a run to score and all runners to advance safely.

"That right there is your ballgame," Jones said. "That play gets made, we got a chance. It wasn't made, we gave up four."

In looking at Venters' error, the question is whether going to third in that situation was the right decision. But across the board, manager Fredi Gonzalez, Venters and Jones thought the ball was bunted hard enough to take a shot at the lead runner.

The problem was in the execution.

The errant throw opened the door for a wild inning, and it ultimately cost the Braves the game.

"It's my job to come in and keep it where it is, and I didn't do that," Venters said. "This loss is on my back. I didn't do my job, and I let my team down."

Chad Durbin replaced Venters and promptly walked a batter before surrendering three more runs on a double and a sacrifice fly. Two walks and three batters later, he was removed in favor of Cristhian Martinez, who stranded the bases loaded.

In all, the seventh inning featured three relievers, 44 pitches, 10 batters and four runs on just two hits and four walks.

"A lot of good things happened without getting a lot of hits," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "And then the few hits we got were huge."

Starter Mike Minor was a bright spot for the Braves, but inefficiency with his pitches limited him to just 5 2/3 innings and put the bullpen in a tough position, having to get 10 outs. The left-hander tossed a career-high 115 pitches as he held the Brewers to just two hits and a pair of walks against eight strikeouts.

The Brewers were especially patient against Minor, forcing him out of the game early despite his dominance.

"Somebody said I threw 50 pitches after two innings. That was just because of not throwing too many strikes and a lot of foul balls," Minor said. "I just couldn't pound the zone like I wanted to."

Before the bullpen gave up the big seventh inning, the Braves looked to be continuing their hot streak despite their offensive struggles. Instead, missed opportunities early made that four-run inning put it away.

Jason Heyward was the first runner thrown out, caught stealing second to end the first. Freddie Freeman was picked off first base an inning later, and Martin Prado was thrown out at third on a Heyward single in the fourth. Prado was thrown out again at third on a Freeman single in the eighth.

Each of the four outs was costly, but the last one gave away the chance for Dan Uggla to bat with two on, in position to tie the score.

"Early in the game, I'm fine with it," Gonzalez said. "Trying to go first to third with one out, I'm OK with it. But the last one there, with Danny at the plate swinging it, tying run at the plate, that's not acceptable, almost. You don't want to get thrown out there at third base, especially with the way Danny's swinging it and the way he can leave the ballpark and tie the game."

Atlanta missed its biggest opportunity in the fourth, beginning with the Prado out.

Jones followed Heyward with a single that would have driven in the run and could have sparked a big inning. Instead, a Freeman strikeout got Brewers starter Wily Peralta out of the inning.

"We just gave them outs," Gonzalez said. "We had chances. ... It's hard to win ballgames when you only score one run."

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.