With John Smoltz moving back to the starting rotation, new Braves closer Danny Kolb is off to a slow start, as is much of the team’s relief corps.
“There seems to be an epidemic of runs being given up by the bullpen right now around baseball,” said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, who was ejected in the first inning of Wednesday’s 11-4 loss to Washington for arguing balls and strikes.
“We were in the game up until the later innings,” catcher Johnny Estrada said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting ahead of hitters and just kind of holding the fort so that we can score some runs at the end of the game.”
One day earlier, Kolb blew a save as he surrendered three runs in the ninth inning on two hits and two walks in a 4-3 loss to the Nationals. He had saved his first three appearances despite giving up a run in one of them.
Cox likely will need to rely on his relievers in this contest as well, considering starter Horacio Ramirez is working his way back from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss most of last season. He worked just 4 2-3 innings in his season debut.
Ramirez will be facing a Phillies offense that led the majors in runs before it was shut down earlier this week by Florida. Philadelphia was held to six runs in the series, and failed to score in the last 15 innings while losing the final two games.
“We’re going home now, that’s the big thing,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We need to win some games at home.”
Philadelphia’s Pat Burrell has hit safely in all nine games, though he has failed to drive in a run in either of the last two games after doing so in the season’s first seven. He leads the majors with 17 RBIs.