Baseball / Sports

Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward is all smiles stopping to sign autographs for fans before taking the field to play the Milwaukee Brewers at Turner Field in Atlanta on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Braves' winning streak ends

ATLANTA -- Giving up a grand slam to Mark Reynolds before recording the second out of the game was bad enough for Ervin Santana, but here was another indication that things just weren't right for the Braves pitcher Wednesday night: He walked pitcher Kyle Lohse with two out in the fourth inning.

On four consecutive balls. After a called first strike.

Upon giving Lohse a free pass, Santana served up a home run to Carlos Gomez on the very next pitch, a two-run shot that gave Milwaukee a five-run lead en route to a 6-1 rout at Turner Field that ended the Braves' three-game winning streak.

"That was a little frustrating," Santana said. "Because it's not right to walk the pitcher. It's not right."

For the second start in a row, Santana (4-2) had a new season-high for runs allowed, giving up nine hits, six runs and four walks in seven innings. This after allowing a season-high 10 hits and five runs in five innings Friday at St. Louis.

He is 0-2 with an 8.25 ERA in his past two starts, after going 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his first six.

"In the first few innings I didn't have any location, for the most part just trying to keep the ball down," said Santana, who described a mechanical flaw in which he was pulling his arm too much across his body trying to reach the outside corner against right-handed hitters.

Counterpart Lohse (6-1) halted the Braves' recent offensive resurgence, allowing four hits and one run in eight innings, with no walks and eight strikeouts. After the Braves hit .306 with seven homers and 20 runs in their three-game streak, they mustered just five hits Wednesday.

They got consecutive two-out doubles from Freddie Freeman and torrid-hitting Justin Upton in the first inning to cut the lead to 4-1, then three singles the rest of the night. Upton had three of their five hits.

"He was just going in and out," Freeman said of Lohse, who dominated them with mostly his modest 89-91 mph fastball and sliders. " We were aggressive against him. He made a lot of mistakes tonight and we just popped them up, it seemed like. I had a few myself and we just didn't get it done tonight."

Against Lohse, the lineup reverted to the form it showed for most of three weeks prior to the three-game winning streak. The Braves batted .211 with four runs during that 5-12 stretch.

"We're not going to score nine runs every game, so you've got to go out there and win some close ones," Freeman said. "Magic (Santana) only made two mistakes tonight. Unfortunately we weren't able to get any runs tonight to help him out."

Santana put the Braves in a hole quickly, giving up four runs before recording the second out. Single, double, pop-up, walk, grand slam. That's how the game started, with .200-hitting, homer-and-strikeout artist Reynolds lining a first-pitch hanging slider to the left-field bleachers for his ninth home run and third career grand slam -- while many in the small crowd (18,148 tickets sold) were still finding their seats.

"Just a couple pitches," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Santana's mistakes. "Obviously the slider to Reynolds there in the first inning, but just a couple pitches. I thought other than that, he did a nice job, really. They hit the ball hard in the first inning to come out with the bases loaded and then he made a mistake to Reynolds and put us down 4-0."

The four runs allowed on one swing matched the total number of runs Santana had allowed in his previous three home starts combined. He also issued as many walks (two) in the first inning as in his previous home starts combined. He was 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA in those three home starts before Wednesday, with 20 strikeouts and two walks in 21 2/3 innings.

Santana said the difficulties in the two starts were unrelated, that his delivery problem Wednesday wasn't an issue at St. Louis.

"It happens," he said. "Bad starts are going to happen. So I just have to be prepared and get my mind right, stay positive and just keep throwing strikes."

The Brewers led 4-0 before the Braves got to bat. Santana had given up four hits, nine runs in a span of five innings, including the last four innings of his five-inning stint in Friday's 5-2 loss at St. Louis, his shortest outing of the season.

Those nine runs in a five-inning span equaled the number of runs Santana allowed in his previous 41 2/3 innings over six-plus starts including a scoreless first inning at St. Louis.

(c)2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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BRAVES


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