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Braves out of first — not they deserved to be there

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Ervin Santana was dinged early with a first-inning homer by Philadelphia's Ryan Howard. (Curtis Compton)

Ervin Santana allowed a first-inning homer to Phillies’ Ryan Howard. (Curtis Compton)

You know that question some people have asked about the Braves: How is this team in first place? Well, there’s no reason to ask that question right now.

In losing to the last-place Philadelphia Phillies for the second straight game 5-2 Tuesday night, the Braves fell one-half game behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East.

The significance of a half-game deficit with 92 games to go? Bupkis.

The significance of scoring three runs in two games over 22 innings against a Phillies team that ranked third from the bottom in the National League in ERA (3.95), as well as committing two errors and a passed ball in Tuesday’s win? Yeah, that’s kind of big.

The Braves opened the season 17-7 (.708). They’re 19-27 (.413) since. After closing out this homestand and this series, mercifully, Wednesday against the Phillies, they will head out on an 11-game road trip that begins with four games in Washington.

How the road trip goes certainly could influence general manager Frank Wren’s decision on whether or not to make a major move (if that’s even possible with this roster). For more on that, here’s a link to the MyAJC column.

But back to Tuesday’s game and the abysmal performance by this lineup. Manager Fredi Gonzalez repeated a reporter’s question, saying, “Yeah, we had some opportunities.”

But not many. Not really. They managed only two runs and six hits in seven innings against their personal tormentor, Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, who is kind of mediocre against everybody else (he entered the game with a 2-6 record and a 4.09 ERA). They left four runners on base compared to the Phillies’ 11. So if any team had opportunities, it was Philadelphia.

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a Ryan Howard homer off of Ervin Santana. They haven’t trailed in the series. This is a team that hasn’t had a .500 record since May 5. (They’re now 31-38 after consecutive wins.) There has been speculation they will be sellers at the trade deadline and will try to unload some of their high-priced talent.

But the Braves have had a habit this season of ending teams’ slumps. It’s one of their many bad habits.

Instant re-post: Recent blogs and columns (free links)
— MyAJC: Nats, trip may force Braves to make a move
— Blog: Possible Braves’ moves: Bethancourt up, B.J. to bench?
— Blog: Is it time to drop Freeman in batting order?
— MyAJC: Is La Stella that Prado-like spark Braves need?
— Blog: With ‘Hard Knocks,’ Falcons camp just became a clown show
— Blog: Weatherspoon injured (Is this happening again?)
— MyAJC: Braves’ Wren has hardest task of Falcons’ GMs
— Blog: Braves are golden … or doomed (you decide)
— MyAJC: Falcons need Bryan Cox to lead them to ‘the edge’
— Blog: Richt, Pruitt justified in making changes
— Blog: NCAA is still living in a fantasyland
— MyAJC: Kennesaw State’s footprint just got bigger
— Blog: Hawks’ assistant Snyder may get Utah job
— MyAJC: Hawks not as far from top in NBA as thought
— MyAJC: Georgia State’s Miles on SEC’s whines: ‘That’s their problem’
— Blog: SEC coaches don’t want rules skirted (Wait. What?)
— Blog: Braves’ move shouldn’t mean Uggla’s out…yet
— MyAJC: Cobb’s embarrassing handout to Braves hits the finish line

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