ATLANTA - It's not just a bullpen problem that's plaguing the Atlanta Braves.
It's a thick coating of rust on their starters that's most troubling.
A three-day break for the All-Star game didn't revitalize a pair of Cy Young winners.
In a copy of Thursday's game, Tom Glavine blew a four-run lead Friday night and the Braves remained winless in the second half with a 9-7 loss to the New York Mets before a record sellout crowd of 49,094 fans at Turner Field.
"Seven runs tonight and seven runs last night, 99 percent of the time that's good enough for us," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "But we don't have the solution once we take the field right now."
It's been 10 years since the Braves lost their first two games following the All-Star break and 10 months since they yielded as many as 19 runs in consecutive games.
Glavine (9-5) was leading 5-1 after five innings, but ended up with his worst start since last May 24. He exited after 71/3 innings charged with 10 hits and eight earned runs, matching his career-high, and took his first loss since June 9.
In the last seven games before the All-Star break, Braves starters allowed eight earned runs in 492/3 innings (1.45 ERA). In two games since, John Smoltz and Glavine have combined to give up 12 earned runs in 141/3 innings (7.54 ERA).
"We're struggling a little bit and not doing a whole lot of things well," Glavine said. "It's not something we can get caught up in and cry and moan about. We've got to go out and make things go our way."
It all started to get away from Glavine in the sixth inning. After allowing a fifth-inning run, he gave up five hits and a walk, all with two outs, and four runs in the sixth.
Fred McGriff restored the lead in the seventh with his first homer since June 22, but the Mets tied it again in the eighth. Bernard Gilkey led with a double against Glavine and Manny Alexander's one-out single sent Gilkey across the plate with the tying run.
Glavine, who finished with 129 pitches, shouldn't have been out there in the eighth inning. But without a reliable setup man, manager Bobby Cox was forced to use the left-hander longer than he would have if the Braves still had Greg McMichael in the bullpen.
On came Brad Clontz and he offered another disastrous performance, yielding a two-run double to pinch hitter Matt Franco to give the Mets their first lead.
"We've wasted too many runs," Cox said. "When there's two outs and you give up four runs, things aren't going your way, that's for sure."
New York's bullpen did a serviceable job in relief of starter Armando Reynoso, who only lasted five innings. Cory Lidle (4-1) got two outs in the seventh and picked up the win, while John Franco worked the ninth for his 22nd save and second of the series.
The Braves built a four-run cushion against Reynoso, who entered the game with a career record of 0-6 with a 6.00 ERA against his former club. Glavine had a two-run single in the second inning and McGriff's sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
Andruw Jones' second double drove in a run in the fifth and Eddie Perez followed with an RBI hit for a 5-1 advantage. But that wasn't nearly enough offense on this night.
"As good as we are and as much as people think we're going to throw our gloves on the field and win 120 games, it's not that easy," Glavine said. "Those guys are a good team and they're making us pay for every mistake we make."
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