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Braves missing too many key players
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ATLANTA — Billy Wagner. Chipper Jones. Martin Prado.

Boy, the Atlanta Braves could have used their injured stars Sunday.

Without Wagner, their closer, the Braves' failed to protect a ninth-inning lead in Game 3. Without Jones and Prado, fill-in second baseman Brooks Conrad made three errors, including a miscue in the ninth that led to the go-ahead run in the San Francisco Giants' 3-2 victory.

"It's heartbreaking," said Tim Hudson who gave up four hits and one unearned run — thanks to Conrad's first error — in seven innings.

There was postgame talk that manager Bobby Cox might consider replacing Conrad for Monday night's Game 4.

But how? With whom?

"Most of our viable options are on the disabled list," Jones said in a somber Braves clubhouse.

The Braves tried not to dwell on the players no longer available. The injury list also includes two starting pitchers, right-hander Kris Medlen (right elbow) and Jair Jurrjens (hamstring).

"It's easy to hang that up as an excuse, but nobody in here is using that as an excuse," Hudson said. "We have confidence in the guys we're putting out there."

Wagner, who had 37 saves, was replaced on the Braves' postseason roster Sunday after straining his left oblique on Friday night. Takashi Saito took his place on the roster.

With Wagner watching, rookies Craig Kimbrel and Mike Dunn combined to give up two runs in the ninth, blowing a 2-1 lead. Kimbrel gave up two hits and Dunn gave up a run-scoring single to Aubrey Huff.

"I thought they handled themselves well; it could have just as easily been me," Wagner said. "They were battling, doing everything you expected."

Cox turned to veteran right-hander Peter Moylan. Buster Posey hit a grounder that bounced under Conrad's glove and went through his legs, allowing Freddy Sanchez to score the go-ahead run as many in the sellout crowd booed.

Conrad, a utility infielder most of the season, was best known for his two pinch-hit grand slams. He became a starter at third base when Prado was lost on Sept. 27 with hip and oblique injuries.

Almost immediately, Conrad's miscues began. He has eight errors in his last seven games.

Conrad's two throwing errors led to a combined seven unearned runs in key losses to Philadelphia on the last weekend of the regular season, prompting Cox to move the 30-year-old rookie to second base. Omar Infante moved from second base to third.

When asked if he will start Conrad on Monday, Cox said "I'll have to sleep on it."

The Braves have shortstop Diory Hernandez and former third baseman Troy Glaus on their bench. Hernandez played one inning at second base this season.

Glaus started at first base, and was the NL player of the month in May, before the Braves traded for Derrek Lee on Aug. 18. Glaus made only one regular-season appearance at third base and turned a key double play when he played an inning at third base in Friday's win.

Mobility would be the question for Glaus, who was unable to field a bunt on Friday night. He missed 14 games in August with a left knee injury.

Prado, the All-Star starter at second base, moved to third when Jones sustained a season-ending knee injury in August. Since Prado's season-ending injury, Conrad's woes have continued at second base, the position he played through most of his minor league career.

He made an error in the Braves' 1-0 loss in Game 1 and three more blunders Sunday.

"It's very hard," Jones said. "There isn't a guy in here who wouldn't take Brooks Conrad in their foxhole any day. He works his tail off. He deserves better than what happened today. We want so bad for him to be successful."

As Cox made a pitching change after the Giants took the lead, Conrad stood alone until Lee walked over from first base to offer consolation.

"I was just being there for him," Lee said. "We've all been there. We've all had tough games. I didn't say too much."

All players have had bad games, but three errors in a playoff game is a different matter. It matched a postseason record for errors in a game by a position player, according to STATS LLC. He became the fourth second baseman to make three errors.

"He's been such a huge part of this team, he's had so many big moments," Lee said. "This was a rough game for him. It's tough to watch a guy go through this. ... Sometimes it seems nothing good happens for you."

Lee wouldn't dwell on the injuries.

"This team is resilient," Lee said. "We haven't made it easy all year. Why start now?"

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