CINCINCINNATI -- Four batters into the bottom of the first inning, Tom Glavine had an inkling it wouldn't be his night.
Two batters into the second, he was more certain.
Three batters into the fourth, he was right.
Handed the task of adding to the Braves' longest winning streak in seven years Monday night, Glavine collapsed beneath the weight of lofty expectations. His second-shortest start of the season became an 11-3 loss to the Reds before a crowd of 24,619 fans at Cinergy Field, ending a 10-game ride that carried the Braves to their largest division lead in six weeks.
"When you're on a run like this you want to continue it as long as you can, and you don't want to be the guy who ends it," said Glavine, who took his first loss against the Reds in three years. "But with every win the law of averages is bound to catch up with you."
Facing his former club for the second time in five days, Denny Neagle wasn't at the top of his game, but then he didn't need to be after Jeffrey Hammonds, Sean Casey and rookie catcher Jason LaRue launched two-run homers, scoring the most runs against the Braves since an 11-6 loss to the Blue Jays on July 20.
"We got our butts kicked," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Any loss to end the streak was going to be painful. We were due to play a poor game. As long as it doesn't carry over to tomorrow, we can accept it."
A 5-2 winner over the Reds last Wednesday in Atlanta, Glavine didn't have his best stuff or his usual command. He trailed 1-0 two outs into the first and then 3-0 when Hammonds took him deep in the second. Casey's 21st home run in the
fourth only added to his miseries, marking the first time since April 10 he had yielded two home runs in a start.
Six earned runs in four innings was as many as Glavine had allowed in any start since giving up nine to the Brewers on May 24. And, as he struggled to locate the strike zone, his pitch count mounted rapidly, reaching 76 in only three innings and 99 after four.
"It's easier to say I didn't have anything, I stunk and we lost," Glavine said. "But I don't feel I pitched as badly as the line score indicates. It seemed like when I made good pitches they were foul balls and not outs, and if I made a less-than-perfect pitch it was either a chinker or a home run."
Neagle, the loser last Wednesday at Turner Field, was shocked by Walt Weiss' second homer in the third, then Andruw Jones got him again in the fourth. Jones, who hit a three-run homer against him in Atlanta, hit his 25th home run in the fourth to pull the Braves to within a run at 4-3.
That was as close as Neagle allowed his old club to get. A team that won three games in St. Louis by scoring nine runs couldn't sustain any offense.
Meanwhile, there's trouble blooming at the top of the Braves' lineup. Leadoff man Gerald Williams followed Sunday's 0-for-6 performance with an 0-for-4 night against Neagle, and since Aug. 20 he's hitting .182. Having already run through five other leadoff hitters in search of some consistency, manager Bobby Cox doesn't have any other alternative except Williams.
But a club that hit .235 during its 10-game streak can't depend solely on its pitching staff, as Glavine demonstrated to great effect.
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