PHILADELPHIA -- Judging by the furrows lining Bobby Cox's brow, the dog days have arrived a little sooner than expected.
Considering the sudden arrival of the first pennant race in the National League East in many years and the state of the Atlanta Braves, there will be more lines added to his face by September.
Take Friday night's doubleheader, for instance. A banged-up lineup missing its home run leader sent the league's win leader to an early shower in the first game, then a rookie pitcher with a series of unremarkable starts worked a gem in the nightcap.
Which game belonged to the Braves? Both of them, but they accepted a split with the Phillies after the bullpen blew a three-run lead in a 6-5 loss in the opener and Bruce Chen pitched into the eighth inning and took a 3-1 victory in the second game before a crowd of 32,673 fans at Veterans Stadium.
By scoring four runs in the first inning of the opener, three on Randall Simon's bases-loaded double, the Braves had a great opportunity to pin a loss on Curt Schilling. But they lacked a killer instinct. A lineup missing Chipper Jones scored only one run over the final eight innings and a bullpen that had worked 7 23 shutout innings in Thursday's 6-3 win over the Marlins exploded in spectacular fashion.
If not for a blister on the middle finger of Kevin Millwood's right hand, the bullpen phone wouldn't have rung at all. But with his finger troubling him, he handed off a 5-2 lead in the seventh and Mike Remlinger and Rudy Seanez (5-1) spoiled his 12th win.
The pair combined to allow two hits, four walks and four runs, including Kevin Jordan's two-out, bases-loaded single that tied the game. When center fielder Andruw Jones' throw hit the mound and bounced over Javy Lopez at the plate, Bobby Abreu slid home with the go-ahead run.
"You can't let a 5-0 lead against anybody get away," Millwood said. "We've been losing some games we should have won for the last week and a half now. It's a streak we're going to have to battle our way out of soon."
The relief corps, which entered the game with the National League's third-best bullpen ERA, has a 4.40 ERA on this trip and two blown saves.
"We've got all the confidence in the world in those guys," Millwood said. "There's going to be days when they don't have a good day. Everybody has them."
In the second game Chen faced a lineup missing third baseman Scott Rolen and catcher Mike Lieberthal, effectively removing 42 homers and 126 RBI from consideration. The rookie left-hander, handed a 1-0 lead in the first on Bret Boone's 12th homer, gave it back in the bottom of the inning.
Third baseman Keith Lockhart's error on Doug Glanville's grounder opened the door and Chen's wild pickoff throw allowed the Phillies leadoff man to score the tying run.
That's all the Phillies managed against the left-hander. He departed after 7 2/3 innings charged with four hits and one unearned run, a performance that may earn him another start.
Richmond, Atlanta's Class AAA affiliate in the International League, beat Scranton Wilkes-Barre's Anthony Shumaker on June 7. An omen of good things to come? Perhaps. In his major league debut, the left-hander stifled the Braves for eight innings, yielding five hits and two runs, only one earned.
The winning run scored in the eighth when Boone reached on first baseman Rico Brogna's throwing error and scored on Shumaker's wild pitch. Eddie Perez's leadoff double against Jim Poole in the ninth and Ozzie Guillen's RBI single gave closer John Rocker some breathing room and he picked up his 20th save.
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