LOS ANGELES -- Those days of Kyle Davies being a top-flight pitching prospect have long passed. And as his inconsistencies continue to mount, his chances of have having long-term success at the Major League level are beginning to become more suspect. Nobody knows this better than Davies, who was visibly and understandably dejected after the 7-6 loss the Braves suffered to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. The six runs his offense had granted him in the first three innings proved to be nothing more than inconsequential. "There's no beating around the bush," said Davies, who allowed five earned runs and six hits in a season-low two-plus innings. "I've been up here for a while now, probably 2 1/2 years and 40 or more starts. I've got to make an adjustment. I've got to get better. I'm not pitching very well. I'm capable of a whole lot more. The bottom line is I've got to go out and do it."
While the early offensive production spared Davies from losing a fifth consecutive start, it didn't prevent him from feeling responsible for what was the Braves' third straight loss. After losing five straight, they came back to match a season-high five-game winning streak that has now been followed with three consecutive demoralizing losses. Sunday's loss was marred by the squandering a ninth-inning comeback. Monday's setback was one that might have been avoided if not for one sixth-inning wild pitch. And while Tuesday's defeat was decided with Matt Kemp's seventh-inning RBI single off Tyler Yates, it was one that was deservedly placed on Davies' wide shoulders. "When you get six runs in the first three innings, you've got to win," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who saw his team held scoreless and limited to just one hit after Dodgers starter Randy Wolf's ineffective evening ended after three innings. Davies, who was making his first start since feeling some discomfort in his left oblique region during a strong June 23 start against the Tigers, saw his teammates erase an early one-run deficit with a three-run second inning that was highlighted by Brian McCann's two-run homer. The All-Star catcher has hit four of his eight homers since June 14 and each of them has come against a left-handed pitcher. McCann's contribution would be negated in the bottom half of the inning when Davies left a changeup up to Wilson Betemit, who began his four-RBI night by drilling the misplaced delivery over the center-field wall for a game-tying two-run homer. Betemit, who would also highlight his team's game-tying, three-run third inning with a two-run double off Oscar Villarreal, has five hits, including three homers in nine at-bats against the Braves, who on July 29 of last year traded him to the Dodgers. He's hitting .182 with just six homers in the other 121 at-bats he's registered this year. "If you get pitches like that, you're going to step it up," a disgusted Cox said in reference to Davies' misplaced changeup. Through the first four starts of his career, Davies was 2-1 with a 0.77 ERA. Since then, he's 11-19 with a 7.21 ERA. In his 43 career starts, he's got a 5.98 ERA, which ranks as the highest mark among all Major League pitchers who have made at least 40 starts. "I have to make an adjustment," said Davies, whose development was stunted when a torn groin forced him to miss 3 1/2 months last year. "If I don't, I'm going to keep getting beat up. If I don't get any better, it's not going to get any better." Things certainly didn't get any better for Davies after his team had constructed a three-run third against Wolf with the contribution of just one hit -- a Jeff Francoeur double. He exited the bottom of the third after allowing a Jeff Kent leadoff single that was followed with a walk drawn by Luis Gonzalez. Davies' exit prompted the entry of Villarreal, whose lone blemish on the evening came from the fact that he surrendered three straight one-out hits -- including a two-run Betemit double -- in the bottom of the third. Andre Ethier's third-inning RBI single would be the final hit surrendered by Villarreal, who was charged with one earned run in three innings. But while he was retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced, the Braves were experiencing their own struggles against right-handed reliever D.J. Houlton, who set the tone for the Dodgers bullpen by allowing just one hit over three scoreless innings. Kemp, who decided Monday night's game with a two-out sixth-inning homer, was put in position to deliver a second consecutive game winner after Jeff Kent double with one out in the seventh off Wil Ledezma. One out later, Yates entered and promptly allowed Kemp to direct a 3-2 delivery back up the middle for the decisive RBI single. But as Davies and the rest of the Braves know, this game was essentially decided by what was squandered in the first three innings. "The team comes out and scores six runs for you, you're supposed to win those games and you're especially supposed to go longer than two innings," Davies said. "I didn't pitch very good."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.