SAN FRANCISCO - What Braves reliever Joey Devine is experiencing to begin 2006 would seem to transcend the idea of a sophomore slump. It would be enough to break some youngsters' spirits.
Giving up a two-run home run Friday to San Francisco's Moises Alou - pivotal at the time and moot in the end of a 14-6 Atlanta win - seemed bad enough.
On Saturday - part of the Braves' 12-6 loss - was much worse; almost like nearing Mark Wohlers and Rick Ankiel levels of painful-to-view.
Down 8-4 when he entered in the eighth, Devine threw 42 pitches - 19 for strikes. The scuffling 22-year-old's two-thirds of an inning included four walks and three Giants hits that led to four earned runs.
After four-pitch walks to Mark Sweeney and Pedro Feliz, unheralded journeyman Ken Ray was forced to quickly loosen and get the inning's final out.
"Devine had a tough day," manager Bobby Cox said. "He simply got wild."
Paired with Alou's homer, Devine's ERA since he was recalled Thursday from Triple-A Richmond is 63.00.
"I don't know what it is," said Devine, who admitted Friday that his primary goal was to keep from being sent back down. "I'm just having a really hard time finding the strike zone. That's pretty much the bottom line."
STRANGE NIGHT: The wacky week on the West Coast hit fever pitch Friday night.
A one-hour, 46-minute rain delay forced the first pitch to be thrown a minute after midnight EST. The final pitch was tossed at about 3 a.m.
Cox was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing an Andruw Jones check swing. That event was actually part of a 32-minute top half of the inning that included eight Braves runs on two weak singles, six walks, a hit batter and an error.
Giants relievers Tyler Walker and Jack Taschner accounted for five of the six walks and the hit batter.
"It was one of the worst innings I've ever seen since I put on a uniform," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "And that was an onion sack in the Dominican."
ON DECK: Weather permitting, Atlanta will close out its soggy week on the West Coast with an afternoon game pitting John Smoltz (0-1, 9.00 ERA) and the Giants' Jason Schmidt (0-1, 5.14).
Smoltz, who took the loss in his initial start against the Dodgers, is looking for Atlanta's first quality start this season.
Reach R. Travis Haney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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