Atlanta hopes the bullpen can start turning things around as it opens a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Acquired in the offseason after saving 39 games for Milwaukee last season, Kolb was expected to close for the Braves this year while Smoltz rejoined the starting rotation. It took about a month for Kolb to lose the job as he consistently struggled, and now he’s one of Atlanta’s many setup men having trouble getting outs.
In their last seven games, the Braves have lost five, with the relief corps getting tagged for 17 runs and 25 hits in 17 innings in those defeats.
Kolb entered Thursday’s game at Washington in the eighth inning with a 6-3 lead, and gave up two RBI hits before being replaced by Kevin Gryboski with two runners on base. Gryboski went on to surrender a go-ahead three-run double and the Braves lost 8-6.
“I pretty much feel terrible about my whole season right now,” said Kolb, who has a 7.29 ERA. “Go home, do some thinking and see what happens tomorrow.”
In his last nine appearances, Kolb has two blown saves and three losses while giving up nine runs, 14 hits and seven walks in seven innings.
Gryboski has blown a save in each of his last two appearances. Other struggling relievers for Atlanta include Adam Bernero, who had a 5.63 ERA in May, and Roman Colon, who was ripped for 12 runs over 8 2-3 innings in eight appearances last month.
Despite the bullpen’s problems, Atlanta is just percentage points behind Florida for the NL East lead.
Pittsburgh did the Braves a favor by winning three straight over the Marlins this week before losing the finale of that series on Thursday, 6-3.
It was the first time Pirates pitchers had given up more than four runs in 12 home games since May 3, an 8-3 loss to San Francisco. Pittsburgh was denied its first four-game winning streak since Aug. 14-17.
It was the first series in a 13-game homestand for the Pirates.
“Obviously this homestand we’ve gotten the results,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
“We’re certainly back to playing the way we are capable.”