PHILADELPHIA -- The Braves came to Philadelphia this weekend with a chance to push the Phillies closer to becoming sellers before the July 31 Trade Deadline. But they exited the City of Brotherly Love with a sense of frustration that has become all too familiar when they have played outside of Atlanta this year.
There were ways to explain the 7-3 loss to the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Kris Medlen encountered a flurry of two-out struggles against a club that has frustrated him throughout his career. And an offense that had tallied a season-high 19 hits on Saturday night simply couldn't deliver the one big hit to overcome Medlen's woes.
"If you play this game long enough, you're going to have games like this where you get your [butt] kicked," Medlen said. "This was one of those days for me."
Six of the career-high seven runs (six earned) Medlen surrendered in 5 1/3 innings were tallied with two outs. Meanwhile, the Braves stranded 10 runners over the final five innings and couldn't maximize the prime opportunities they had to erupt in both the fifth and seventh innings.
"You just chalk it up that we weren't able to get the big hit," said Brian McCann, who went 9-for-12 while the Braves won just once in the three-game series.
Since winning the first seven games they played away from Turner Field, the Braves have lost 25 of their past 39 road games. More importantly, with four losses in their past five games, they have seen the lead over the second-place Nationals shrink to four games in the National League East. This is their smallest lead since May 20.
Like many of the Braves who do not have a theory to explain their road struggles, Medlen is searching to understand why he has compiled a 5.48 ERA in four career starts against the Phillies.
"It's been this team for me my entire career," Medlen said. "I have no answers for them. I always get very frustrated facing this team. It's because they're a quality team. They're a team that knows how to win. I feel like I need to be perfect to beat them."
The Phillies are three games below .500 and stand 7 1/2 games back in the NL East race. But while winning series against both the Pirates and Braves this week, they have maintained their hopes that they could turn things around with a strong run over the next few months.
"I think we just outplayed them," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "They were tough today. They hung right in there. But we got hits when we had to, and they were in situations to do the same thing, but they didn't pull it off. They have a good team. I feel like the games we won, we definitely outplayed them."
When Medlen exited with two runners on and one out in the sixth, Alex Wood opened his outing by striking out Ben Revere. But in his attempt to keep the deficit at 5-1, the rookie left-hander uncorked a wild pitch that allowed both Darin Ruf and Carlos Ruiz to score. Ruiz scored from second when McCann corralled the baseball and then made an errant throw that sailed wide of the plate and traveled toward the third-base dugout.
"When you get 10 hits, you can't blame the offense," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It was a combination of a lot of things."
Medlen retired the first two batters he faced, then allowed Chase Utley to fuel Philadelphia's two-run first with a single to right field. Domonic Brown followed with a line-drive triple that buzzed over the top of first baseman Freddie Freeman's glove and went to the right-field corner. Delmon Young scored Brown with a single.
Philadelphia's two-run fourth began with the free-swinging Young drawing a nine-pitch walk after falling behind with a 0-2 count. Ruf followed with a double that put he and Young in position to score on Revere's two-out triple.
The only run the Phillies scored without two outs came courtesy of Brown's fifth-inning homer.
"It was one of those days for me," Medlen said. "I felt like I jumped ahead OK and I was ahead of guys. But putting guys away was a different story. I threw balls off the plate and they hit them. The home run to Domonic Brown, I thought the ball was about to hit him. He's having a great year and he's hot right now."
After notching just one hit through the first four innings, the Braves started to whittle away at a 4-0 deficit by beginning the fifth with a McCann single and Dan Uggla double. But the only run that came via this threat was a two-out single Medlen produced following Jonathan Pettibone's consecutive strikeouts of B.J. Upton and Chris Johnson.
Atlanta stranded a pair of runners while going scoreless in both the sixth and eighth. In between, the Braves tallied two runs in what could have been a much more productive seventh. After Johnson hit a one-out solo home run, Tyler Pastornicky, Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward followed with consecutive singles that cut the deficit to four. But the threat ended with J.C. Ramirez and Antonio Bastardo combining to strike out Justin Upton and Freeman.
"They're a good team," McCann said. "They're a competitor. Every time you play them, you know you're going to run into a couple horses. We feel good where we are at. They just beat us today."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.