Originally created 06/12/06

Hit parade: Astros knock around Braves



HOUSTON - After losing three of four to keep their epic spiral continuing, leaving Houston would seem like the best thing for the beleaguered Atlanta Braves. Yeah, except Tropical Storm Alberto stood between the team and Miami, its next destination.

"We're flying into a tropical storm," third baseman Chipper Jones said after the Astros destroyed the Braves, 14-4, in the series finale at Minute Maid Park on Sunday. "The hits just keep coming for the Atlanta Braves."

They kept coming for the Astros on Sunday. They tied a season high with 17 hits, including a frightening one by Lance Berkman off the left side of Horacio Ramirez's head in the second inning that forced the starter's exit.

"Things just aren't going our way right now," said Ramirez, who sported a knot on his temple, but didn't require an X-ray and seemed generally OK. The left-hander said should be able to make his next start.

In 1w innings, Ramirez allowed six earned runs, one more than roughed-up reliever Chris Reitsma did in w of an inning in the sixth.

"We just didn't have a good day pitching, that's for sure," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of the most runs Atlanta has surrendered in 63 games this season. The loss was Atlanta's 11th in 14 games.

After another New York win, the Braves are 10 games behind the Mets (39-23) in the National League East. They haven't been down by double digits since 1993, when Atlanta needed the third-best second half in baseball history (54-19) to overcome the deficit.

"We're an awfully discouraged ballclub," said Jones, who did have a pair of hits Sunday, including his seventh home run. "To a man, there's probably only a handful of guys in here that are proud of the way they've played.

"It's going to take a major turnaround, some guys doing some soul-searching and figuring out what they need to do to be successful."

Jones, Jeff Francoeur and Edgar Renteria, who had four hits, all homered Sunday, but the Braves still struck out eight times, just above their season average of 7.69 per game. Atlanta struck out 41 times in the four-game series here.

"It's been rough," Francoeur said. "Who knows, maybe a hurricane or something will wake us up and get us going."