Originally created 05/24/00

Braves come up short

MILWAUKEE -- Never mind worrying about Terry Mulholland and John Burkett.

Save your frowns for the bewildering case of Kevin Millwood.

Quicker than you can say Spahn and Sain and pray for rain, the Braves' rotation has developed a serious case of the shakes.

Millwood, Mr. Reliable the past two years, didn't see the fourth inning Tuesday night and a lineup that had averaged double-digit hits for the past week couldn't dig out from an early hole in a 7-6 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 15,808 at County Stadium.

The loss, only the Braves' second in their past 10 games, was costly. Third baseman Chipper Jones sprained his right big toe running out a double play in the sixth and reliever Kevin McGlinchy left in the seventh with a shoulder problem. He will be placed on the 15-day disabled list today, and Kerry Ligtenberg will be recalled from Class AAA Richmond.

"I thought I broke my foot when I did it," said Jones, who reached the plate three times with runners in scoring position and failed to deliver a hit. "It was a fitting ending to a terrible night. I embarrassed myself out there. I'm up in clutch situations, and I've got to come through. It's embarrassing."

The start of a nine-game trip was a total washout for Millwood, who was charged with four hits, three walks and two home runs, including Jose Hernandez's third-inning grand slam. The six earned runs the 25-year-old right-hander allowed upped his ERA to 4.73 and marked the third time in four starts he's given up five or more runs.

Millwood's command was so erratic he threw 86 pitches in three innings, and all three of the walks he issued haunted him. He set the tone with a four-pitch pass to leadoff man Ron Belliard in the first and two batters later Jeromy Burnitz launched a 3-and-2 pitch into the empty center field seats for a 2-0 lead.

More Millwood follies seemingly put the game out of reach in the third. Mark Loretta's single and a pair of walks loaded the bases for Hernandez, who blasted an 0-and-2 pitch over the right field wall, his second grand slam in four days, to make it 6-0.

"I left pitches up when I really needed to get the ball down," Millwood said. "I just didn't throw quality pitches. I don't know what it is. I thought I had some things figured out."

The run that ended up costing the Braves the game came against reliever Bruce Chen in the fourth. Belliard followed Henry Blanco's double with one of his own, sending what eventually proved to be the winning run across the plate.

Brewers starter Jamey Wright was more erratic than Millwood, though he was spared a quick hook by the Braves' inability to produce a hit with a runner in scoring position until the sixth.

Wright, on the disabled list since spring training with a tear in his rotator cuff, teetered through 5 1/3 innings, issuing seven walks, and departed under fire in the sixth.

The Brewers, who stormed back from a seven-run deficit in the ninth inning Monday to beat the Astros in the first game of a doubleheader, blew most of a 7-0 lead in the sixth. Wright, who had allowed only one hit through five, couldn't find the plate and his successor, Valerio De Los Santos, wasn't an improvement.

Before De Los Santos got a third out, the Braves had sent 10 men to the plate, accepted four walks and scored six runs, two on pinch-hitter Bobby Bonilla's single and another pair on Quilvio Veras' double.

"We had to do it right then, either tie it or take the lead," said right fielder Brian Jordan, who had three hits to boost his average to .346. "If you don't, all your adrenaline stops."

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.


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