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Carlyle roughed up early in loss to Sox

Carlyle roughed up early in loss to Sox

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ATLANTA -- Knowing that they had won each of the previous three games that Buddy Carlyle had started, the Braves went into Wednesday night's series finale against the Red Sox with at least some optimism.

But by the time Carlyle had been battered with five first-inning runs, they found themselves ready to endure yet another long evening at Turner Field.

When J.D. Drew hit the fourth pitch of the evening over the right-field wall, it marked just the start of many frustrating moments for the Braves, who saw the Red Sox claim the series victory with a convincing 11-0 win that was fueled by the long ball.

"I honestly made very few good pitches today," said Carlyle, who needed just two innings to surrender three of the five homers Boston would hit on the evening. "Obviously, when you're facing a team like the Red Sox, it's not a good way to go out there."

While getting shut out in the final two games of the series, the Braves were reminded that it's not always a good thing for them to come back to Turner Field. Since winning 13 of their first 20 home games this year, the Braves have lost 12 of the following 20.

Forgettable starting efforts like the one provided by Carlyle, who surrendered seven earned runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings, have played a factor in the home struggles. But so, too, have the seemingly inexplicable inconsistencies experienced by the offense.

Since May 11, the Braves have hit .290 in 22 road games and just .245 in 20 home games. This marked the fifth time in their past nine games at Tuner Field that they've scored one run or fewer. The home struggles were seemingly put to rest in Monday's series opener, when the Braves conquered an ineffective Curt Schilling and tallied nine runs.

"You don't want to be shut out, especially two in a row to close out a series," Matt Diaz said. "We won the first one, and then not only do we get beat in the final two, we get shut out and really don't give ourselves a chance."

Diaz accounted for one of the three singles surrendered by Red Sox starter Julian Tavarez, who had little trouble tossing seven scoreless innings. The 34-year-old right-hander issued just one walk and induced double-play groundouts following the singles he surrendered to Willie Harris and Chipper Jones in the fourth and fifth innings.

"I think pitchers when they're pitching, they get more comfortable with a lead," Harris said in response to the fact that Tavarez had a five-run lead before he took the mound and a seven-run advantage before he'd even faced his fourth hitter of the evening.

Hoping to give him a chance to battle out of the mental struggles created by his .202 batting average, the Braves opted to sit Andruw Jones for the finale. When they open a three-game set against the Tigers on Friday, they can only hope that Chipper Jones is available. The veteran third baseman, who just came off the disabled list last week, left Wednesday's game in the sixth with a sore groin muscle.

While Cox didn't confirm Chipper will play on Friday, one team official provided indication that the injury isn't believed to be serious.

Even if the Jones boys would have been at their best in the finale, it might not have mattered. After allowing Drew's leadoff homer, Carlyle surrendered two doubles and wasn't able to escape the first inning before surrendering a three-run shot to Coco Crisp, who, during this series, belted three of the four homers he's hit this season.

"If I was pitching in college and I threw pitches up like that, people are going to hit them," Carlyle said. "Obviously, when you're facing a team like the Red Sox and throwing pitches like that, they're definitely going to hit them. There's no excuse for it. I just obviously have to keep the ball down a little better."

Carlyle, who was 1-0 with a 3.30 ERA in his previous three starts, also surrendered a two-run homer to David Ortiz in the second inning that gave Tavarez more than enough support on his way to winning his fourth straight decision.

"Buddy just wasn't on top of his game tonight," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Too many pitches in the hot zone, as we say. Boston, they're not the bashers for nothing. They all can hit up and down that lineup."

Manny Ramirez got into the long ball act with his seventh-inning, opposite-field homer off Peter Moylan. Then Eric Hinske capped a three-run eighth against Rafael Soriano with a two-run homer.

While the homers were celebrated by the numerous Red Sox fans who helped create three straight sellouts during this series, they weren't exactly consequential in a game that was basically decided before the Braves got their second turn at bat.

"I don't put the offense in a very good situation when I go out there and give up seven runs in the first two innings," Carlyle said. "It's kind of hard for a team to battle back after that and obviously it gives their pitcher a lot of confidence."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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