Deja vu all over again

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PHOENIX - All was quiet in the visiting clubhouse at Chase Field Saturday evening, save for a handful of players chatting in front of a video monitor in the center of the room.

Chipper Jones watched replays of his at-bats in the game that had just ended, and Tyler Yates watched replays of his pitches, both of them searching for the answers to the same question. What went wrong?

There was plenty of head-scratching and lip-biting to be done after the Braves suffered a 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Conor Jackson hit the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the 10th inning. And the Braves watched the Diamondbacks celebrate a dramatic, extra-inning win at home plate for the second night in a row.

"We're not winning the close ones," said John Smoltz, who pitched seven innings and gave up three runs. "We're in every stinkin' game. But we seem to hit a wall at certain points."

Not only did Atlanta (54-51) lose its fourth game in a row, but it also fell into third place in the National League East. The Braves are a half game behind the Philadelphia Phillies and five games behind the first-place New York Mets.

A stretch that was supposed to give the Braves a boost coming out of the All-Star break has caused nothing but headaches, except for a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates immediately after the break. That stands as one of only two series Atlanta will win in July.

The Braves won the first two of four games against the San Francisco Giants this week, but dropped the last two and now will look to avoid a sweep in Phoenix when Tim Hudson takes the mound today.

"It started out as a pretty good road trip," Smoltz said. "And it's turned into an awful one."

The surging Diamondbacks, winners of eight in a row, have made things worse by the way they've won. After winning with a Tony Clark home run in the bottom of the 10th Friday, Arizona won it with Jackson's liner up the middle Saturday. Jackson hit the first pitch from Chad Paronto, who was brought in with runners on first and second and one out.

"Our only hope was to get them to hit into a double play," manager Bobby Cox said.

The loss was charged to Yates, who put the Braves in such a desperate spot. Yates walked Chris Young to start the inning and Orlando Hudson sacrificed to move Young to second. That prompted Cox to call for an intentional walk of Eric Byrnes and bring in Paronto to try to get the double play.

Reach Brian Costa at brian.costa@morris.com.


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