Originally created 08/12/01

Struggling Braves lose 4th in a row



ATLANTA -- Maybe there are other ways for the Braves to lose agame.

Like if two outfielders lost a fly ball in a moon beam.

If that day should come, the Braves can look back on Saturdayafternoon's 3-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks and know that only acosmic experience could make them feel worse than losing a season-highfourth straight game when two runs scored on what should have been theeasiest of plays.

If the Braves hope to avoid a three-game sweep by the Diamondbacksthis weekend, it may take more than sending Greg Maddux to the moundthis afternoon at Turner Field. They may want to call their batmakersand order a new shipment of white ash because the lumber on hand isn'tworking properly.

The Braves dropped their second straight decision to Arizona, andfell back into a first-place tie with the Phillies in the NL East, whenpitcher Jason Marquis, covering first base in the sixth inning, failedto touch the bag as two runners came home.

"I know I had the bag," Marquis insisted. "There's no doubt inmy mind."

There was no doubt in first base umpire Tim Welke's mind either. Heruled Marquis missed the base on Tony Womack's roller to first basemanKen Caminiti, and replays showed he made the correct call.

"He never touched the bag," Womack said.

"He missed the bag," Diamondbacks first base coach EddieRodriguez confirmed. "I was right there."

Those runs became the difference when the Braves, who have scoredone run in their last 21 innings, went 12-up, 12-down in the final fourinnings after Diamondbacks starter Miguel Batista turned a 3-1 leadover to his bullpen.

The Braves, who dodged a date with Randy Johnson, the league's ERAleader, in this series, had little success against Batista, Arizona'sNo. 5 starter, and four relievers. An offense that was shutout for thesixth time this season Friday saw its bats fall silent again after lastweekend's 28-run salute in Milwaukee, collecting just five hits andadvancing four runners beyond first base.

"We've got to swing the bats a little bit better because we'regetting the pitching," manager Bobby Cox said.

This was the 37th time this season the Braves have scored two orfewer runs, the sixth time this month. More ominously, they now are29-29 at home, and will easily eclipse the Turner Field record of 31losses in 1997.

"Nobody is hitting," said right fielder Brian Jordan, who had asingle in four trips. "What's the reason? Nobody knows."

The Braves, who haven't scored an earned run since the sixth inningof Thursday's game, left two runners on in the first, wasted JavyLopez's single in the second, and stranded Jordan at second in thefourth.

"We're going through a tough time as a team right now," thirdbaseman Chipper Jones said. "We're playing like we did in the firstmonth of the season, and that's not good."

Two of the Braves' five hits were delivered by Dave Martinez,standing in for the ailing B.J. Surhoff. Martinez, who struck out twiceand was hitless in four trips Friday, singled in the first and doubledin the fifth, but advanced as far as third base.

The Braves broke through against Batista in the fifth. But it tooka blown call by Welke to score their first run in 16 innings. Welkeruled Marcus Giles safe with two outs, and Martinez followed with adouble into the right field corner, sending in Giles with thegame-tying run.

In the sixth, Marquis' error -- the Braves' seventh in three games-- proved to be the eventual game-winner. Steve Finley opened theinning with a walk, and Damian Miller delivered a single into rightfield. With two outs, Womack tapped to Caminiti, and he flipped theball to Marquis, who searched for the base, but didn't find it untilWomack reached safely, sending in Finley and Miller.

"It should have been a routine play, and it wasn't," Jones said.