SAN DIEGO – They didn’t win any of three series on their 10-game trip, and the Braves had plenty of time on a cross-country flight home to think about an opportunity wasted.
Braves bats stayed quiet and pitcher Tommy Hanson had another lackluster outing in an 8-2 loss to San Diego on Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park, where the Braves dropped two of three games to finish 4-6 on a three-city trip that left them right where they were when it began — five games behind NL East leader Washington.
“Just a frustrating end to the road trip,” said third baseman Chipper Jones, who was charged with a two-base error in the fifth inning, when he and shortstop Paul Janish miscommunicated on a pop-up. “Especially a play like that. It looks bad. Then to compound it, we don’t field the bunt right after that, and all of a sudden a one-run lead is a three-run lead.”
A popped up bunt landed between catcher David Ross and Hanson (12-7), who then tried to field in on the bounce and grabbed only air. The Padres scored two runs (one earned) in the inning to open a 4-1 margin, then blew the game open with a four-run eighth against relievers Chad Durbin and Jonny Venters.
“We dropped a fly ball; that’s going to happen,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “A little miscommunication there with Pauly and Chipper. But we had a chance to get out of it. The bunt that they popped up to the infield, we’ve got to get an out there. At the very least catch it in the air. And we didn’t do that, and they scored two.”
It was an ugly end to a trip that showed promise after the Braves scored 14 runs in a pair of weekend wins at San Francisco to split that series. But the offense was otherwise dormant for the past week, the Braves totaling seven runs in their other five games during that seven-game stretch in California.
They scored four runs in three games at San Diego.
“We’ve got a pretty good offense, but for whatever reason …” Gonzalez said. “You’ve got to give a little credit to the Padres, the way they pitched us. But we need to get it going a little bit.”
The Braves failed to capitalize on a five-game Washington losing streak that ended with a win at Miami on Wednesday.
Hanson was charged with eight hits and four runs (three earned) in 4-2/3 innings, with two walks and three strikeouts. He’s pitched five innings or fewer in four of his past five starts, and gone 0-2 with a 5.75 ERA in three since returning from a stint on the 15-day disabled list for a strained back.
“Command is the issue, his fastball command,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not going where he wants it to go. Some of the balls are being left over the plate, and he’s walking guys with the fastball. But this is only his third start off of the DL, so maybe he’ll get it going here in the next couple of starts.”
Hanson concurred: “It’s got to be better than what it is now. I’m just going to keep working and do what I can to get it back where it needs to be.”
Atlanta remained atop the wild-card standings, just 2-1/2 games in front of St. Louis. During their 4-8 stretch the Braves have scored two or fewer runs seven times, and Wednesday marked the seventh time they collected seven or fewer hits in that period.
There wasn’t much to recommend from the Braves perspective Wednesday, other than a couple of standing ovations accorded Jones in his last scheduled game at San Diego. He tipped his helmet both times, before his first and last at-bats in the game, and had two singles including an eighth-inning hit up the middle.
Martin Prado followed by grounding into an inning-ending double play.
The Padres scored two runs in the fourth and never looked back on their way to their ninth win in 10 games.
David Ross hit a ninth-inning solo homer for the Braves, whose only other run came on Michael Bourn’s fifth-inning sacrifice fly.
Trailing 2-0, the Braves started the fifth with a Dan Uggla single and a two-base error that put Uggla and Janish in scoring position with none out. After Hanson struck out and Bourn flied out to drive in one run, Reed Johnson grounded out.
Padres left-hander Eric Stults (5-2) limited the Braves to one unearned run in six innings, and Janish popped out on a first pitch with bases loaded to end the sixth inning and their last, best scoring opportunity.
“I still feel like we’re playing pretty good baseball,” Jones said. “We ran into some pretty good pitching on this road trip, but I’m certainly looking for bigger and better things on this upcoming homestand. We’re a tired club right now. I think we’re looking forward to the day off tomorrow and the Phillies coming into town this weekend.”