CINCINNATI -- It's not likely tomahawk-waving fans were massed at Hartsfield Airport in the wee hours this morning when the team charter touched down, the end of the Braves' nine-game cross country jaunt finally at hand.
Just as well. The Braves weren't in any mood to smile and wave.
The Braves were 5 12 games ahead of the second-place New York Mets when the trip began on the first day of August. They returned with their NL East lead shaved down to three games following Wednesday night's 10-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Cinergy Field, dragging a 4-5 mark and a patchwork lineup home with them.
"It was a disappointing way to end the road trip," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Things would have been a lot different if we had made a defensive play here or there or a guy didn't go 0 for 23."
The start of the game was delayed by rain for one hour and 31 minutes and when it finally got underway, the Braves played like a team with a plane to catch. Minus Brian Jordan and Andres Galarraga, they built a 6-2 lead, but Tom Glavine, in his worst performance of the season, was chased in the fifth as the Reds won a series from the Braves for the first time since September 1996.
"The bright side is the road trip is over and we get to go home now," said Glavine, whose seven-game win streak ended. "I don't think I had my `A' game tonight, but I also don't think I should have given up eight runs either. It was just one of those games that there wasn't very much good to say about it."
Glavine (14-6) has delighted in facing the Reds over the years, winning 21 of 30 career decisions, including 14 at the stadium formerly known as Riverfront. But he didn't do his part to send the Braves home with a winning trip, allowing nine hits and a season-high eight earned runs in four innings, the most he's given up since the Brewers scored nine on May 24, 1999.
Ken Griffey Jr., who singled and scored in the first, toured the bases when he caught up with a Glavine fastball and launched it into the right field seats with one out in the third. The 11-time All-Star started the five-run fifth with another single and finished with three runs and a pair of RBI.
"I thought I had good stuff, but inconsistent location," Glavine said. "I thought they hit three balls hard. Other than that, it was stuff that could have resulted in outs."
Cincinnati starter Pete Harnisch (4-6), winless against the Braves since 1993, gave half the lead back in the second. Wally Joyner grounded a single between first and second, Bobby Bonilla blooped a hit into right and Paul Bako's roller sent Joyner across the plate.
In the third, the Jones boys were robbed of RBI hits, Dante Bichette racing into the right field corner to take away Andruw's double, and first baseman Dmitri Young diving to smother Chipper's line-hugging grounder.
But, Joyner followed with a two-run single for a 3-2 lead, then Bonilla lined a triple that almost decapitated a sliding Bichette. Harnisch's wild pitch, sending Bonilla to the plate, capped off a five-run inning, the Braves' biggest outburst of the trip.
"It's not often we get a five-run inning and lose," said Chipper Jones, who ended his hitless drought at 23 consecutive at-bats with a seventh-inning triple. "We just couldn't get them out tonight. They did a good job of swinging the bats."
In the fifth, the Reds chased Glavine, Young following singles by Griffey Jr. and Bichette with a game-tying double. Alex Ochoa greeted reliever Stan Belinda with a two-run triple, which Andruw Jones lost in the lights, then Harnisch blasted a two-out, two-run homer to deepen the Braves' embarrassment.
It was a fitting way to end a trip that saw the Braves win twice in St. Louis, but drop two of three to the Diamondbacks and Reds. October seems a long way away and perhaps that's a good thing.
"We're ready to go home," manager Bobby Cox said.
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