If you’re a Mets or Nationals fan wondering how your team has managed to stay within striking distance of the Braves, consider sending a candygram to desposed reliever Danny Kolb. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s David O’Brien.

The longest Braves road trip of the season is turning into the most brutal two weeks of Dan Kolb’s career.

The Braves closer lost his job after blowing another save — and another potential win for John Smoltz — when Kolb allowed two runs in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.

Manager Bobby Cox said Wednesday that Kolb (above, 1-4, 6.48 ERA) would move to middle relief and the Braves would “piece together” the closer role by committee.

“It’s building a little too much,” the manager said, referring to the late-inning meltdowns in general and to the scrutiny on Kolb, who has blown two saves on the trip and three in 13 opportunities this season. “We need to straighten it out before it explodes. That’s what we’re doing.”

The Braves didn’t need a closer Wednesday when the Padres beat them 8-4 to complete a three-game sweep. Atlanta dropped to 3-6 on a 12-game trip that concludes with a weekend series at Boston.

Atlanta blew eighth- or ninth-inning leads in four losses on the trip.

Cox said any other reliever could be used in ninth-inning situations for the immediate future, depending on matchups, who’s rested and who’s hot..

Kolb, who is a $3.4 million middle reliever until further notice, looked distraught after Cox met with him Wednesday morning. “You’ve just got to respect what he says,” Kolb said, looking away as he answered a reporter’s questions. “He’s trying to do what’s best for the team.”

Kolb blew two saves in six days, costing Smoltz two potential wins.

First batters are hitting .231 with a .474 on-base percentage against Kolb, after hitting .177 with a .219 OBP against Smoltz during the 2002-04 seasons.

Kolb said after walking Ryan Klesko to start the ninth Tuesday, “Leadoff walks don’t bother me. I’m a ground ball pitcher; I can get double plays.”

He has the fourth-highest ERA among NL relievers, second-highest walks rate (16 in 16 2/3 innings), and fourth-worst baserunners-per-nine-innings (18.4).