Originally created 05/04/04

Braves back from road trip



ATLANTA - Mercifully, the Atlanta Braves are home.

They completed a 12-game road trip - their longest of the season - with a rather forgettable loss to the Colorado Rockies, then were off Monday before starting a six-game homestand. Colorado won two of three games from the Braves, who went 5-7 on their journey and fell 2 games behind the Florida Marlins in the NL East.

"We had been playing picture-perfect baseball for almost a month," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.

That all ended Sunday.

The Braves entered the game with the third-best fielding percentage in the National League, but seven errors later, that ranking fell to fourth-worst.

Third baseman Mark DeRosa, an everyday starter for the first time in the big leagues, had four of those miscues in the first four innings to tie the team record set by Darrell Evans in 1975.

Second baseman Marcus Giles booted two plays, and pitcher Horacio Ramirez made a bad throw on a fielder's choice during a three-run first.

An inning later, Ramirez balked home a run. He gave up eight runs - all unearned - in 3q innings, the shortest start of his two-year career. His ERA actually went down, from 2.73 to 2.43.

"Definitely the strangest game I've been a part of," he said. "It's one of those games you've got to put behind you. This game never happened."

DeRosa didn't allow himself that luxury.

"People say, 'Laugh it off.' But I'm not built that way," he said. "The chance of that happening is slim."

Before Sunday, DeRosa had only one error and the Braves had only 10 as a team.

"They weren't easy plays. I think DeRo got every in-between hop he could get," Cox said. "He threw a couple of balls thinking he could make great plays when he probably should have eaten it. Tried to do too much.

"Horacio, without the mistakes, probably doesn't give up any runs in the first inning. It's a whole new ballgame."

The Braves still are a bit short-handed, with shortstop Rafael Furcal missing the final two games in Colorado with a jammed finger and Chipper Jones on the disabled list with pulled right hamstring.

Furcal is expected back for tonight's game against the San Diego Padres, and Jones might go on a rehab assignment this week. He hasn't played since April 18.

"We might do it, just to make sure he's healthy," Cox said. "Not for his eye; Chipper could roll out of bed after hibernating six months and be ready to hit."

To compensate for the odd scheduling over the past week, with two off days, a snowout and a doubleheader, Atlanta will shuffle its rotation. Russ Ortiz starts Tuesday night, with Jaret Wright moving up to go the next night. He'll be followed by Mike Hampton, John Thomson and Ramirez.