ATLANTA ó Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is well aware of his teamís struggles at Turner Field over the past few years, but the sloppy manner in which the Milwaukee Brewers played Sunday had nothing to do with the venue.
"If we play like this, weíre going to get beat everywhere," Roenicke said frankly. "We canít continue to play like this."
After two competitive games against Atlanta that didnít go their way, the Brewers turned in a clunker, losing, 7-4, in a game that wasnít nearly as close as the final score might indicate. It was the fourth consecutive loss on the trip, turning a promising 3-0 beginning into a discouraging 3-4 outcome.
And this wasnít the first bad showing for the Brewers over their first 10 games. They absorbed two beatings in the opening series against St. Louis and were whipped, 8-0, in the final game in Chicago.
A pitching staff expected to hold its own has compiled a 5.65 earned run average, worst in the National League. The offense has an aggregate .228 batting average, with three regulars below .200.
"Weíre not playing the type of game that we want to play on both ends, pitching and offensively," said Roenicke. "Weíre just not doing the things that we know we need to do.
"I donít know why you go through these little funks. We started off not playing good last year, and I donít want to do that again."
Actually, the Brewers were 5-5 through 10 games last year compared to 4-6 this season. Ten games do not make a season, but Roenicke is puzzled as to why so many of his pitchers and hitters have stumbled so badly out of the gate.
The Brewers were fortunate in the first two games here not to have to contend with Chipper Jones, who was nursing a swollen knee.
But Jones returned to the lineup in the series finale and made an immediate impact, socking a three-run homer in the third inning off Chris Narveson to snap a 1-1 tie and put the Braves up for good.
Jones jumped on a first-pitch curveball and sent it out to left for his second homer of the season.
"The first pitch, youíre trying to keep him off-balance," said Narveson. "Down-and-in is kind of a spot you have to stay away from with him. It came back over the plate. We were trying to get it down and away.
"He obviously put a good swing on it. He punishes mistakes like that. You have to execute your pitches with him."
Narveson had trouble executing throughout his 72-pitch, four-inning struggle. He also allowed a long homer in the fourth by left-handed-hitting Jason Heyward, who pounded a hanging changeup into the second deck in right.
"It was kind of an uphill battle today," said Narveson. "Sometimes Iíd get ahead (in the count) and lose it. Other times, Iíd fall behind and try to get back. It was kind of that in-between. I was just fighting to make pitches."
On the flip side, for the second consecutive game Atlantaís starting pitcher had his way with the Brewers. Right-hander Brandon Beachy allowed only three hits over seven innings and the only run he allowed was unearned.
It was reminiscent of the previous evening when left-hander Mike Minor cruised for 71/3 innings, surrendering two hits and one unearned run.
"The whole series, their guys pitched well," said Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. "They stayed down in the (strike) zone and made pitches when they had to. You have to give credit to them. They executed in big situations and kept the ball down."
It stayed ugly until the end as Brewers closer John Axford pitched the eighth, merely to get some work, and allowed a hit, two walks and two runs (one earned). The Brewers committed two errors on one play, and Roenicke had to get Axford out of the game with only one out on the board.
It wasnít until the ninth inning when the Brewers finally showed some life against mop-up pitcher Chad Durbin. Corey Hart doubled in a run and Lucroy crushed a towering two-run homer to left, but it was far too little, far too late.
"We got outplayed this series and we got outplayed in the last game in Chicago," said Lucroy. "We made mistakes and the other guys took advantage of it. What are you going to do? Itís the game.
"We come here and have had trouble. I donít know why. We just got outplayed. You canít use (the venue) as an excuse. We have to do better."