New York – Rain or shine, the Braves seem all but incapable of driving in runs.
They stranded 10 runners in five innings during a rain-shortened 1-0 loss against the Mets on Sunday night at Citi Field, the fifth consecutive defeat for a Braves team that has almost its entire lineup slumping at once.
The Mets scored an unearned run in the first inning on a Chipper Jones throwing error, then held on for the win and series sweep, keeping last-place Atlanta three games behind National League East leader Philadelphia.
“Things couldn’t have gone any worse for us this weekend,” said Jones, who returned to the lineup sooner than expected after leaving Saturday’s game with a sore hip. “Hopefully things go better for us in St. Louis.”
The Braves (8-10) were swept for the first time this season and slipped to 1-1/2 games behind bunched-together Florida, Washington and New York in the division standings.
After totaling more than twice as many errors (seven) as runs (three) in New York, the Braves continue their two-city trip Monday night with the opener of a four-game series against Albert Pujols and the Cardinals.
“That’s what, five in a row?” manager Bobby Cox said of the skid. “We need to break that real quick.”
They’ve hit .201 while scoring just 14 runs in their past eight games, and the Braves are 7-for-52 (.135) with runners in scoring position in that period, including 1-for-14 the past two games.
“We were all over the bases all night,” Cox said, “just had a tough time getting ‘em in again. But at least we’re getting them on.”
Tommy Hanson (1-2) was a hard-luck loser, charged with one unearned run, five hits and two walks in five innings while racking up eight strikeouts and trimming his ERA to 2.14.
“The rain and everything, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Hanson said. “That’s out of my control. But I feel really good today. I’m really happy with the way I threw the ball.
“It’s not satisfying, because the point is to win the game. That said, I can only worry about what I can control.”
Braves pitchers held opponents to three earned runs or fewer in five of the past eight games, but are 2-6 in that stretch.
“You get good-pitched games, you want to win them,” Cox said. “But it’s not going that way right now. You take what you got and move on.”
The Mets scored in the opening inning after Jose Reyes hit a two-out single and advanced to second on a stolen base. Jason Bay hit a single that Jones fielded on his knees before making an errant throw to first that allowed Reyes to score.
It rained most of the day and night in New York and Jones came up with a handful of mud along with the ball, which he said prevented a good grip on his throw.
“Troy [Glaus] said it only rotated about two times,” Jones said of his throw to the first baseman. “That’s kind of the way it’s going. My hand was complete mud.
There were repeated missed opportunities for the Braves against Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey (4-0), who extended his scoreless-innings streak to 24 despite allowing five hits and five walks in five innings.
They loaded the bases in the first on a two-out walk by Jones, a Brian McCann double and a Troy Glaus walk. Rookie Jason Heyward, who’s been the Braves’ best with runners in scoring position, popped out to end a nine-pitch at-bat.
Jones said he didn’t know if his still-sore hip would’ve prevented him from making it around to score from first base on McCann’s double, but in retrospect he wished he’d tried.
At the time, however, he and third-base coach Brian Snitker didn’t know the relay was going to be imperfect or the game decided by one run.
In the second inning, the Braves stranded two when Martin Prado struck out. In the third, they stranded two when Heyward grounded into a double play.
The Braves had two runners on base yet again in the fifth, after a Prado double and a McCann walk. Glaus grounded into a double play to thwart that scoring chance, dropping him to 4-for-24 with runners in scoring position.
Four of eight position players in the Braves’ Sunday lineup are batting below .200: Cabrera (.153), Glaus (.186), Escobar (.188) and McLouth (.146).
The game was called after a 98-minute delay following the first pitch thrown in the top of the sixth inning. Five completed innings is all that’s required for an official game.
“It’s not going to stop [raining] for a long time,” said Cox, who monitored the weather radar during the delay. “They had no choice.”