Braves shut out again by Orioles
ATLANTA (AP) — Fredi Gonzalez would like to think his Atlanta Braves will be more productive when they’re at full strength.
The problem is they keep losing players.
The Braves were handed consecutive shutout losses for the first time in three years when Wei-Yin Chen combined with four relievers on a seven-hitter and the Baltimore Orioles continued their success in interleague play by beating Atlanta 2-0 on Sunday.
First baseman Freddie Freeman missed his fourth straight game, including all three against the Orioles, with a sore finger.
“When the guy that’s hit third for most of the year is sitting next to you for the last three or four games and he’s not healthy, it hurts,” Gonzalez said.
The Braves lost another key player when they placed starting pitcher Brandon Beachy on the 15-day disabled list before the game. Beachy, who leads the major leagues with his 2.00 ERA, left Saturday night’s loss with a sore elbow and will have an MRI on Monday.
Jason Hammel threw a one-hitter in a 5-0 victory for the Orioles on Saturday night.
The Braves, who have lost six of seven, had not been shut out in back-to-back games since June 5-6, 2009, when Milwaukee won two straight in Atlanta.
“The only thing we need to avoid is pressing,” said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who was 0 for 3 with a walk.
Jones missed Saturday’s game with swelling in his left knee. He was on the disabled list from May 26 to June 10 with a bruised calf and said “it seems we can’t fire on all cylinders at once” due to illnesses and injuries.
Even so, Jones said the Braves should be more productive.
“You’d still like to think you can go out there and score three runs no matter who’s in the ballgame,” he said.
The Orioles, who remained 1 games behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East, have won seven of eight. They are 9-3 in interleague play with series wins over Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
Chen (7-2) gave up six hits and one walk in seven innings to outpitch Randall Delgado (4-7), who allowed only two runs and three hits in eight innings.
Delgado’s eight innings matched his longest start. He walked one batter and struck out six.
Despite the loss, Gonzalez called Delgado’s strong start “a big step forward” for the team and the right-hander.
Jim Johnson pitched a perfect ninth for his 20th save. Darren O’Day, Troy Patton and Pedro Strop combined for a scoreless eighth.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter applauded Chen’s ability to successfully bunt and field bunts — no small feat for an American League pitcher from Taiwan.
Chen’s sacrifice helped the Orioles score a run in the sixth.
“It’s something you work on in spring training and it could be a difference-maker in the game, and I think it was today,” Showalter said.
Chen fielded a poor bunt by Delgado in the third to start a double play that helped spoil a scoring opportunity for Atlanta.
Adam Jones led off the second with a ground-rule double to right field. After moving to third on Wilson Betemit’s fly ball, he scored on Mark Reynolds’ sacrifice fly.
“They did a good job of executing small ball,” Braves catcher David Ross said. “They played the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
A misplay by Matt Diaz helped Baltimore stretch the lead in the sixth. Diaz ran in before stopping too late and watching a line drive by Steve Pearce sail over his head for a double to the left-field wall. Pearce advanced on the sacrifice by Chen and scored when Delgado balked with Robert Andino at the plate.
The Braves hit into double plays in each of the first three innings.
Ross and Andrelton Simmons led off the third with singles before Delgado bounced a bunt too hard toward Chen, who threw to third to start a double play. Simmons advanced to third on a throwing error by Andino at second base, but Michael Bourn ended the inning on a groundout.
The third was the only inning in which the Braves managed more than one hit.
Showalter said he was impressed by the play of Simmons, the rookie shortstop who in the fourth inning made a tough grab of a sharply hit grounder by Jones and bounced up to make a strong throw to first to end the inning.
Atlanta’s Eric O’Flaherty, who had been out with a sore left elbow, got one out in the ninth in his first appearance since June 8.
NOTES: The Braves recalled RHP Todd Redmond from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Beachy’s roster spot. Redmond will pitch out of the bullpen. … Freeman said the swollen knuckle on his left index finger has improved “a lot” after two cortisone shots Saturday. … Delgado also lasted eight innings on May 3, giving up two runs in a loss to Philadelphia. … The Braves head to New York to play the Yankees, who swept three games in Atlanta last week. Mike Minor faces CC Sabathia on Monday night.