ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker seemed to sum it up best when he addressed the media following Sunday's 4-2 loss to the surging Rockies and said, "In this business, about the time you think you've got something figured out, you're going to get kicked in the teeth."
While "never get too high or get too low" might seem like an overused cliche, it now stands as a reality for the Braves, who had won 14 of 18 before being swept in this four-game series by the Rockies, who overcame a ninth-inning deficit in two of the wins on this trip to SunTrust Park.
"You've got to move on and get ready for the next one," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "We're still right in the thick of it. So, it's no time to feel sorry for yourself or linger over whatever mistakes were made throughout the homestand and this last series."
The Braves began this homestand by taking two of three from the Brewers and sweeping a four-game series against the Marlins. They entered the Rockies series with a two-game division lead and exited it with a half-game lead over the second-place Phillies, who lost to Mets in the Little League Classic on Sunday night.
Everything seemed to be going right as Ronald Acuna Jr. was surging and returning to the lineup less than 24 hours after a plunking halted his home run surge. But just when it appeared the Braves might strengthen their National League East lead, Dansby Swanson committed an error that hurt Brad Brach, who squandered a one-run lead when he was assigned the closing duties when A.J. Minter and a couple other top relievers were unavailable in Thursday's series opener.
Sean Newcomb struggled during Friday's lopsided loss, and Minter blew a three-run lead with two outs and nobody on in Saturday's ninth inning. Once Brach allowed the Rockies to tally another insurance run on Sunday, there was reason to argue the Braves' most encouraging ninth-inning pitching appearance during this series was provided Friday by utility man Charlie Culberson.
"They were competitive games, good games," Flowers said. "Minter is not going to be perfect. Dansby is not going to be perfect. These things happen. We weren't able to pick each other up in those specific games, but you've got to move past them and get ready for the next one."
In essence, the Braves are the same team that had created a buzz during the early portion of this homestand. Unfortunately, this means they are still understaffed in their young and unproven bullpen. It also means they need to extend their search to find a bat for the bench and possibly somebody to take some playing time from Swanson, whose recent defensive woes led to what appeared to be a spirited pep talk from third-base coach Ron Washington before Sunday's game.
"We're not in a bad spot," Snitker said. "We're obviously not pleased with how this homestand ended. But there's a lot of baseball left to play and a lot of time left to do something good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Attempting to prevent what now stands as the Braves' third four-game losing streak of the season, Anibal Sanchez limited the Rockies to three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings. He surrendered DJ LeMahieu's solo homer and a Nolan Arenado RBI single in the third inning. But the homer that created postgame buzz in Atlanta's clubhouse was the second-inning solo shot Trevor Story hit on an 0-1 slider below his knees.
"I don't know how Trevor Story hit that one out," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "I feel like it was on the ground. Sometimes, you've just got to tip your cap on those. I felt like they didn't hit the ball hard at all. I felt like [Sanchez] did a really good job and gave us a chance to win. We just didn't score any runs."
The Braves totaled 12 homers while winning six of the first seven games on this homestand and then hit just one during the series against the Rockies. German Marquez added to Atlanta's offensive malaise as he allowed just two runs over seven innings in the series finale. The runs came courtesy of RBI singles recorded by Johan Camargo, who went 9-for-16 with runners in scoring position during the homestand.
The Braves have combined to go 24-7 against the Mets and Marlins and 16-12 against the Nationals and Phillies. Their overall record is a product of what they have done against NL East opponents, especially the two cellar dwellers. The Braves have gone 28-36 against teams from outside the division.
Kevin Gausman will take the mound when the Braves open a three-game series against the Pirates at PNC Park on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Acquired from the Orioles on July 31, Gausman will be looking to win a third straight start for the first time this season. Pittsburgh will counter with Chris Archer, who has a 5.65 ERA in three starts since being acquired from the Rays.