Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez believes it's only a matter of time until his club breaks out of its offensive slump, but the most recent results haven't been encouraging.
The Braves will try to avoid a third straight shutout and their ninth consecutive loss at Miller Park on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers .
After consecutive 2-0 losses in the series' first two games - Saturday marking the major league-leading 11th time the Braves (43-33) have been shut out - they haven't scored since the third inning of Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Mets. They've produced only 28 runs through a 4-8 stretch.
Saturday's defeat was Atlanta's fifth in six games and it was the eighth time in the last 12 contests the club failed to hit a home run. The Braves' 93 homers are among the most in baseball and they've proven to rely heavily on that power.
They're 4-24 in games in which they don't homer compared to 39-9 when hitting at least one.
Numerous players are dealing with individual struggles, with Jason Heyward 5 for 28, Freddie Freeman 2 for 20, Brian McCann 1 for 16 and Justin Upton - who got an off-day Saturday - 4 for his last 30. All four, who have 34 home runs on the season, are homerless during those respective slumps.
"We're getting on base, but when we do hit the ball hard, it's at somebody or somebody makes a good play," Gonzalez said. "I feel like, at any moment, some of the at-bats that you're seeing, at any moment you're going to turn that around."
Facing Milwaukee starter Donovan Hand - who was making his first big league start Saturday - didn't provide an antidote, as Atlanta managed two hits off the rookie in 4 2-3 innings and four total.
Sunday will be the second straight game in which the Braves face a starter they haven't seen before as Alfredo Figaro (1-1, 3.88 ERA) gets the nod for Milwaukee (31-42). Perhaps Gonzalez's club can rediscover its power as Figaro has surrendered five home runs in four starts spanning 21 2-3 innings and allows 1.52 homers per nine innings for his career.
A three-run shot from Carlos Pena chased Figaro from his start at Houston on Tuesday after 4 1-3 innings, which he needed 94 pitches to get through. He was charged with five runs in the 10-1 defeat.
Figaro needed 88 pitches to throw seven shutout innings in his previous outing at Miami.
"Maybe it was the day off yesterday; I didn't do anything. Maybe that's why," said Figaro, normally a long reliever, but has taken over a spot in the rotation after Mike Fiers was demoted to Triple-A earlier this month. "But you have to compete. It's no excuse to say I didn't have energy; I have to compete and try to do my job."
Paul Maholm (7-6, 3.57) tries to end a six-game losing streak against the Brewers as he starts for Atlanta, which has been a bad omen for team's offense lately. The left-hander has received three runs of support over his last three outings, going 0-2 despite a 3.15 ERA. Atlanta supported him with an average of 6.14 runs through his first 12 starts as he went 7-4.
He's 3-11 with a 5.12 ERA in 22 starts against Milwaukee, which he hasn't beaten since Aug. 19, 2009, while with Pittsburgh. Maholm owns a 6.34 ERA while losing six of his last seven starts versus the Brewers.
Carlos Gomez is 8 for 18 off Maholm with a .722 slugging percentage.
|June 18, 2013||Evan Gattis||15-Day DL||Oblique strain|
|June 17, 2013||Ramiro Pena||15-Day DL||Right shoulder impingement|
|May 29, 2013||Kris Medlen||Day-to-Day||Left game - left upper calf contusion|
|May 18, 2013||Eric O'Flaherty||15-Day DL||Left elbow surgery - out for season|
|May 13, 2013||B.J. Upton||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left shoulder contusion|
|May 12, 2013||Jordan Walden||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 10, 2013||Ryan Braun||15-Day DL||Right thumb contusion|
|June 04, 2013||Marco Estrada||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|May 25, 2013||Jim Henderson||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 25, 2013||Jim Henderson||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 22, 2013||Hiram Burgos||15-Day DL||Right shoulder impingement|
|May 08, 2013||Tom Gorzelanny||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tendinitis|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves had gone 24 innings without a run when Brian McCann stepped to plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers .
McCann quickly put an end to the streak of futility when he hit a grand slam to left-center off Alfredo Figaro . Chris Johnson and Jordan Schafer added solo shots for the Braves, who went on to a 7-4 victory.
"I usually don't hit the home runs over that way, so I've been working hard to stay on the ball and today, luckily, I put a good enough swing on it to go out that way," McCann said.
Beaten 2-0 by the Brewers on Friday and Saturday, the Braves received a much-needed offensive lift from McCann when he connected for his 10th career slam.
"That was big for us," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "If anything, to get ahead and get four runs and then tack on a couple later on and win the game was big. Games like this, they say hitting is contagious. Hopefully, it catches a couple of guys and keeps going."
Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez sprained his left shoulder when he fell awkwardly near the center-field wall while making a leaping catch of Andrelton Simmons ' drive in the fourth. Gomez, hit in the left knee by an earlier pitch from Paul Maholm , immediately left the game clutching his shoulder.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said there is no immediate plan to put Gomez on the disabled list.
"Hopefully, it's not going to be too bad," Roenicke said. "It could be a couple days, it could be a week. We'll know more tomorrow when they take a look at him."
Gomez was confident he won't miss much time.
"I can move my shoulder. I don't think it will take a lot of time before I'm back to playing. In a few days, I'll be fine. Probably tomorrow I'll be a little bit sore. I felt my shoulder pop out and come back. I got lucky that it came back."
Gomez said he injured the shoulder when bracing himself as he fell near the outfield wall.
"When I jumped I expected that the wall was (closer) to me," he explained. "When I jumped I stayed in the air for a long time. I thought I was going to hurt my head and my neck."
He said the team's medical staff told him an MRI isn't necessary at this point.
Gomez also was sporting a bruise on his knee from being hit by a pitch.
"I think my knee hurt more than my shoulder," he said. "There's a little bruise. It's right on the bone."
Gomez broke his left clavicle in a game at Arizona in 2011. He is hitting .312 with 12 home runs, 37 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.
Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said he was relieved to hear about the initial prognosis Sunday.
"I thought he broke his collarbone again. They showed the replay on it and it looked terrible," Lucroy said. "I'm glad to hear that it's just a sprain. He's a big stick and an important part of our team and our lineup."
The Braves, who lead the NL East despite getting shut out a major league-high 11 times this season, snapped an eight-game losing streak at Miller Park dating to April 2011.
McCann reached base safely four times in five trips to the plate.
Johnson led off the second with an opposite-field homer to right field. A leadoff drive by Schafer in the fourth extended the lead to 6-0.
Schafer had four hits in five at-bats, including a double.
"That's what he can do for you - give you that spark," Gonzalez said. "You can pretty much put him in any of those positions in the outfield and he's a plus defender. He can beat you with his legs or hit one out of the ballpark like he did today."
McCann also offered high praise for Schafer's performance.
"I can't say enough good things about that guy," McCann said. "He comes back here for his second stint and I think he's understanding what he can and can't do on a baseball field. He's staying within himself and you're seeing this guy has got tools and we're starting to see them on a nightly basis."
Milwaukee scored four times off Maholm in the fifth. Logan Schafer 's one-out single drove in two. Lucroy followed with a two-run homer to straightaway center.
Atlanta added a run in the ninth on Dan Uggla 's RBI single.
Five Braves relievers held Milwaukee scoreless over the final four innings. Craig Kimbrel earned his 21st save in 24 attempts.
The Brewers loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh but pinch-hitter Juan Francisco , acquired in a trade with Atlanta this month, popped out in foul territory to end the threat.
Maholm (8-6) entered 3-11 with a 5.12 ERA against the Brewers and had lost six consecutive decisions to them over eight starts. His last win against Milwaukee Brewers came in 2009.
This time, he gave up four runs and eight hits over five innings while walking one and striking out three.
"The offense was the big thing today," Maholm said. "I pitched well for four innings and then gave up some runs, but it's good for the team to leave here with a win."
Figaro (1-2) lasted 3 1-3 innings, giving up nine hits and six runs. He struck out four and walked three.
It marked the second consecutive poor outing by Figaro, who allowed four earned runs and five hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 10-1 loss at Houston on Tuesday.
"He wasn't locating his pitches," Roenicke said. "He was up in the zone with his fastball and couldn't command the off-speed pitches. He can't pitch that way."
NOTES: In recognition of Polish Heritage Day, Milwaukee sported red caps and white jerseys with red accents and blue and gold lettering with the name Piwowarzy, which means Brewers in Polish, across the front. ... Milwaukee 3B Aramis Ramirez was given a day off to rest a balky knee. Jeff Bianchi started in his place. ... OF Justin Upton was out of the Braves' lineup again with an injured right hand. ... Milwaukee 2B Rickie Weeks has a hit in 16 consecutive starts. ... The Braves travel to Kansas City for a two-game series that begins Tuesday, marking the first meeting between the teams at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals are the only team the Braves have yet to visit since the start of interleague play in 1997.