It's an aggravating new world of offensive ebb and flow that's regularly left the Atlanta Braves high and dry this season.
Case in point: The bats that produced 22 runs against San Francisco in winning the first two games of the series became so much kindling Sunday afternoon. With the division lead at stake, the Braves fell by the offensive wayside in a 5-2 loss to the Giants before 38,026 soggy fans who waited out a 34-minute rain delay in the ninth inning at Turner Field.
"We scored too many runs (Saturday)," Chipper Jones said. "We didn't save enough for today."
Bidding for his 13th win, Kevin Millwood had a troublesome fourth inning and dropped a second straight start for the first time since last August. Atlanta's right-hander, a 7-1 loser to the Pirates last Tuesday, had made 28 starts without losing two in a row and has won just once since July 8.
The fourth inning bit Millwood (12-7) again. Ellis Burks' 250th career home run was a two-run shot that snapped a 1-1 tie, and before Millwood got a third out the Giants had sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs.
"That's what I've been trying to stay away from all year, the big inning," Millwood said. "That really took the wind out of our sails."
The mistake to Burks was a first-pitch fastball that Millwood left over the middle of the plate. The homer was the 17th he's allowed this season, one less than he allowed last year.
"If I get it down and away where I want it, it's probably a double play ball," Millwood said. "I just couldn't make the pitch. It's a little frustrating. This is the way my season started out for me."
Giants starter Kirt Rueter, looking for his first win against the Braves in six years, was happy for the support. The left-hander has taken a pair of losses and three no-decisions this season in which the Giants have scored three runs or fewer, so five was a bonanza.
Rueter (10-6) allowed a fluke run in the first when Bret Boone's popup fell at Burks' feet in right field and Brian Jordan's looper dropped into center. Atlanta's offense still had a faint heartbeat in the sixth when Jose Hernandez rifled a two-out RBI single through the middle, but it was the last clutch hit of the afternoon.
A lineup that hit .325 in the first two games batted .242 against Rueter and a pair of relievers and stranded seven runners, three in scoring position.
"If you check every club in baseball, with the exception of the Indians and the Yankees, everyone does it," manager Bobby Cox said. "You see it all over baseball. We just couldn't get much going. It was really pretty much uneventful."