Originally created 06/04/06

Braves back at .500 after losing twice



ATLANTA - Remember when the Braves were four games above .500? Way back a week ago, after they outlasted the Chicago Cubs 13-12?

Back when they were headed home after a 6-3 road trip?

Well, they're back to .500 after a long, lackluster Saturday saw Atlanta drop both ends of a day-night doubleheader, 4-2 and 13-9 to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Braves have now lost five of the first six games of this 10-game homestand. With the two victories Saturday, the Diamondbacks assured they would win the series and made it impossible for the Braves to do better than break even during the homestand.

"It's been a pretty frustrating year. We've had some good streaks, we've won some close ones and put some runs together," said Adam LaRoche, who went 2-for-4 in the first game.

"But then we just get right back into that, you know, losing two out of three."

The offense has struggled against the Diamondbacks, scoring 12 runs in three games after a one-run outing Thursday night and a two-run performance during the Saturday day game were dressed up by a nine-run barrage Saturday night.

"One day we're scoring runs, one day we're not," LaRoche said. "I don't know how many times we've gone out and gotten three or four hits on a game. ... These are guys, (number) three or four starters, that we're not scoring runs on and those are guys that you've got to get your damage off of."

The Braves haven't led since they beat the Dodgers, 9-3 on Wednesday. That remains their only lead of the homestand.

"We're scoring them when we're behind, instead of to put us ahead early and give us some confidence," said Jeff Francoeur, 1-for-9 during the doubleheader.

And the Braves played catch-up all day Saturday.

In the nightcap, Damion Easley led the offensive onslaught with his first multihomer game in more than five years. He hit two, two-run shots and a three-run blast in the ninth. The first of Easley's two-run blasts came as the Diamondback rocked John Thomson for eight runs on 11 hits in 4q innings.

In the opener, Atlanta scored in the second inning on Marcus Giles' single that drove in two runs.

But that would be the last time Atlanta would score against Enrique Gonzalez, who fanned eight over six innings for his first major-league victory.

The Braves would pick up just three hits the rest of the game.

John Smoltz (4-3) took the loss in the first game.

Not that Smoltz could be entirely disappointed in his performance. He struck out 10 without walking a batter, the ninth time he's done that. It was the 38ith time Smoltz has rung up double-digit Ks.

"But if I'm going to give up four runs like that, I guess it's got to change," he said. "I'm certainly not going to go out there with terrible stuff and shut somebody out, so I've got to be able to use the good stuff."



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