Braves' missing players too difficult to replace

Atlanta Braves' Alex Gonzalez chews his nails in the ninth inning of the Braves' 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of baseball's National League Division Series on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010, in Atlanta.

ATLANTA  - Billy Wagner. Chipper Jones. Martin Prado.


Boy, the Atlanta Braves could have used their injured stars Sunday.

Without Wagner, their closer, the Braves' failed to protect a ninth-inning lead in Game 3. Without Jones and Prado, fill-in second baseman Brooks Conrad made three errors, including a miscue in the ninth that led to the go-ahed run in the San Francisco Giants' 3-2 victory.

Conrad, a utility infielder most of the season, became a starter at third base when Prado was lost with hip and oblique injuries. Conrad's two throwing errors led to a combined seven unearned runs in key losses to Philadelphia on the last weekend of the regular season, prompting manager Bobby Cox to move the 30-year-old rookie to second base.

Conrad's woes have continued at second base, the position he played through most of his minor league career.

He made an error in the Braves' 1-0 loss in Game 1 and three more blunders Sunday.

Since Prado's season-ending injury, Conrad has nine errors in seven games. Prado, the All-Star starter at second base, moved to third when Jones sustained a season-ending knee injury in August.

Wagner, who had 37 saves, was replaced on the Braves' postseason roster Sunday after straining his left oblique on Friday night. Takashi Saito took his place on the roster.

With Wagner watching, rookies Craig Kimbrel and Mike Dunn combined to give up two runs in the ninth, blowing a 2-1 lead. Kimbrel gave up two hits and Dunn gave up a run-scoring single to Aubrey Huff.

Cox turned to veteran right-hander Peter Moylan. Buster Posey hit a grounder that bounced under Conrad's glove and went through his legs, allowing Freddy Sanchez to score the go-ahead run.

Braves fans booed Conrad and booed again between innings when Conrad was shown on a highlight video.



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