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Davies can't bring Braves' streak to five

Braves' streak snapped at four

ATLANTA -- It's true that Kyle Davies deserves some blame for setting a negative tone during the Braves' 10-3 loss to the Reds at Turner Field on Monday night. But he can share the blame with the rest of the Braves, who allowed such a tone to be established permanently during the nine full innings their starting pitcher was not in the game.

Davies faced five batters, walked three and was removed before recording an out. Oscar Villareal made sure that the first-inning damage against Atlanta was minimal, but the Braves couldn't climb out of the hole the inconsistent Davies dug with possibly the most frustrating outing in a season full of them.

The Braves left 14 runners on base, including the bases loaded twice. Every potential rally was thwarted by Cincinnati's clutch pitching, and every rally by the Reds was seemingly aided by an Atlanta mistake.

"I don't think we can really point the finger at any one thing," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "That was a pretty awful exhibition of baseball all the way around. We had plenty of opportunities to get back in that game, [and] we had plenty of opportunities to keep runs from being scored against us."

Davies' biggest problem during his up-and-down season has been finding the strike zone and avoiding the big inning. He didn't do either on Monday, going to three-ball counts to four of the five hitters he faced.

After an RBI single by Ken Griffey Jr., Davies loaded the bases by walking Brandon Phillips, prompting a visit from pitching coach Roger McDowell. That didn't calm Davies down, though, and he walked the next batter, Adam Dunn, on four straight pitches. At that point, Braves manager Bobby Cox had seen enough.

"He couldn't really locate his fastball and fell behind on everybody," Cox said. "He just was way, way off the mark."

Even though Davies recently endured a stretch of four consecutive losses, there was reason to hope because Davies was coming off a six-inning performance against San Diego, during which he allowed just one run and struck out six. But that has been the story with Davies all season -- brilliant one outing, troublesome the next.

"I'm frustrated -- I want to be consistent," Davies said. "I know I'm a whole lot better than this. The bottom line is you've got to go out there and throw strikes to get anybody out, and I didn't do it."

Villareal pardoned Davies by getting out of the bases-loaded, no-out jam with two strikeouts and an infield popup. His success was only temporary, however. In the top of the second, Griffey cranked a long three-run home run to right field.

It was Griffey's 587th career homer and it put him alone in sixth place on the all-time list -- Griffey had previously been tied with Frank Robinson.

The Reds tacked on an unearned run in the sixth on one of three Atlanta errors. The miscues led to the Reds scoring four unearned runs.

"We threw balls over the place," Jones said. "We just made error after error. It was not a good tone set in the first inning and just a bad night all the way around. It's one of those you have to put out of your mind."

The Braves started the short comeback trail with two runs in the third. They loaded the bases -- a common theme on the night -- and came through only once, when Andruw Jones looped a two-run single to center.

With one out and a chance to do further damage, Reds starting pitcher Bobby Livingston retired Jeff Francoeur on a foul-out and struck out Matt Diaz.

Livingston walked the tightrope all night but survived through the five innings he needed to earn his second win in three starts this season. Livingston had good fortune all night -- the left-hander knocked four hits, scored a run and recorded an RBI.

The Braves loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, but Livingston struck out Andruw Jones and Francoeur before inducing a foul popup to Diaz.

Francoeur was ejected for arguing home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez's strike call on a ball Francoeur felt was inside. Cox joined in the argument but was not ejected.

"I don't think I've got to explain myself on that call tonight," Francoeur said. "I've argued close calls before, but that was a big-time situation."

The Reds continued to tack on runs against five Atlanta relievers -- only Jose Ascanio had a scoreless appearance. The Braves had their final chance to rally in the eighth against Cincinnati's shaky bullpen, but they again left the bases loaded.

The Reds had opportunities to make the outcome even worse for Atlanta, leaving 12 runners on base. But the Reds got the solid pitching effort the Braves and Davies desperately needed. With John Smoltz returning from the disabled list on Wednesday, Davies' rotation spot is up in the air.

"The last 2 1/2 years have been a challenge," Davies said of his young career. "I pitch good at times. I pitched well at the beginning of the season four straight times and ended up losing three in a row.

"The challenge part of it is going out there and trying to be consistent. I want to go out there and be consistent for myself more than anybody, because I know I'm a whole lot better than this."

Jeff Lutz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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