SAN DIEGO -- Bobby Cox's eyes narrowed a bit following Monday night's 3-0 loss to the Padres when it was suggested his Braves are slumping.
"It's not a matter of slumping, it's just getting beat," he said. "As many breaks as we've got the last two weeks, we're getting zero now." Breaks had little to do with Woody Williams' domination of a lineup that failed failed to muster consecutive hits and never had more than one runner on base until the ninth. He allowed only four hits before tiring in the ninth and Trevor Hoffman needed just six pitches to retire Bret Boone, Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan for his 37th save.
"He had a good curveball and when he wanted to throw it for strikes, he did," catcher Wiki Gonzalez said of Williams' performance.
Since beating the Diamondbacks 7-3 10 days ago, the Braves have scored more than four runs just twice in eight games and they made Williams look like he deserved immediate enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. They wasted Ryan Klesko's double in the second. Andruw Jones, who has rolled into a double play in three straight games, wiped out Klesko's leadoff single in the fifth. Gerald Williams produced a two-out single in the sixth, but Boone continued his slide with a strikeout.
Reporter: "Was Williams that good?"
Jordan: "Nah. We were that bad. We didn't swing the bats well."
With three straight losses, their longest skid since dropping five straight from July 17-21, the Braves have allowed the Mets to close the gap to one game, their smallest division lead since leading by a half-game on Aug. 23. Suddenly, an eighth straight division championship is in jeopardy with only 17 games left, but so is a trip to the postseason.
The Reds won for a seventh straight time against the Marlins Monday afternoon, leaving them 2 1/2 games out in the wild card race and tightening the three-spots-for-four-teams scramble among the Braves, Mets, Astros and Reds.
"We said a month ago we're going to have to battle to win the division," Boone said. "I'll still take this team against anybody."
Terry Mulholland worked five innings and struggled through three of them, allowing a pair of runs in the second on two-out hits by Chris Gomez and Williams, then another two-out run in the third. He worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth and departed for a pinch hitter in the sixth, leaving behind a three-run deficit the Braves were unable to overcome.
"It's no time to panic," Boone said. "We'll come back strong."