ATLANTA — For every member of Braves Nation not clad in an official Atlanta major league baseball uniform, the last three days inside Turner Field had to make them feel like strangers in their own home against the New York Yankees.
Anything the Braves did the Yanks did better. Much better. As in a three-game sweep of the home team better. The visiting fans even chanted "Let's go, Yankees, Let's go, Yankees," in such a boisterous and obnoxious way as to make you think the Bronx had claimed squatters' rights on Buckhead.
(If you're a Southerner appalled by such boorish behavior, feel free to mutter, um, "Darned Yankees" at this moment.)
But the real Braves didn't see it quite that way after Wednesday evening's 3-2, come-from-ahead loss to close out the series.
"We played two really good games and got nothing out of it," said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez after his team's fourth straight loss. "Sometimes you get key hits. Sometimes you get key outs."
Added catcher Brian McCann, whose two-run homer in the fifth momentarily gave the Braves a 2-1 lead: "You can look at this two ways -- they made the pitches when they needed to or we squandered a lot of scoring chances. Either way, we're really close. We just couldn't get the big hit to break it open."
A cynic might say this is a loser's lament, that Atlanta is beginning to look like one of those teams that's just good enough to get you beat. A team blessed with hitting until it needs a hit, thus did the Braves strand 13 base runners on Wednesday. A team whose pitchers can pitch until an opponent's on third with less than two out in a tie game, thus did 15 scoreless innings in the last two nights against the Yanks produce no wins.
Or maybe that's just the Yankees that play that way as Turner Field visitors, seeing as how they now stand 9-2 in the place.
So even though the Braves backers among the packed house of 48,938 had a rare opportunity to serenade their visitors with a loud, long rendition of the Tomahawk Chop following McCann's McBlast, it didn't last.
Braves pitcher Tim Hudson may have entered this game standing 3-1 with one no-decision following Braves losses this season. In fact, Hudson had won 32 of 48 starts since 2007 following an Atlanta loss.
But come the top of the sixth, all that changed. Yankee captain Derek Jeter singled and Curtis Granderson homered to hand New York a 3-2 advantage. The air was once more filled with "Let's go, Yankees. Let's go, Yankees."
Now the slow but steady rain that had begun midway through the second inning wasn't the only thing putting a damper on the evening.
And it went from bad to worse in the bottom of the eighth when Atlanta's Martin Prado grounded into a inning-ending double-play with runners on the corners and one out.
Ironically, if the Braves have dramatically improved in any single area this season under new hitting coach Greg Walker it is hitting with runners in scoring position.
A year ago they finished 30th in the majors in that category. Heading into Wednesday night they were fourth.
But not this night. Not this series. Not against the most storied, hated, beloved, bejeweled franchise in all the sport.
Entering Monday a half-game better than Atlanta on the season, New York exited the Big Peach with a sweep.
Said Hudson, "They made some pitches, they made some plays. That's what they do."
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...
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