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Despite Kotsay's cycle, Braves fall

Despite Kotsay's cycle, Braves fall

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ATLANTA -- As he attempts to gauge whether he wants to pitch again next year, Tom Glavine can certainly hope for better days. Along the way, he and his Braves teammates can feel fortunate that there won't be any future encounters with the Cubs.

When Glavine had previously faced the Cubs, he exited with a tremendous amount of elbow discomfort. This time, his early exit against them came with the frustration that their potent offense can create.

While struggling in the 11-7 loss the Braves suffered against the Cubs at Turner Field on Thursday night, Glavine (2-4) showed some rust that was exposed with a couple of powerful swings provided by Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano.

Ramirez's three-run third-inning homer and Soriano's two-run fourth-inning homer marred Glavine's first big league start in more than two months and helped the Cubs complete a perfect six-game season series against the Braves, who were outscored 27-9 while getting swept by the National League Central leaders this week.

"We just didn't get our starting pitching for the series," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We gave up too many runs too early."

While suffering another loss to the Cubs, the Braves at least witnessed some history courtesy of Mark Kotsay, who became the sixth player (fifth since 1900) in franchise history to hit for the cycle. His seventh-inning double off Bob Howry provided him this historical achievement and accounted for his 1,500th career hit.

"It feels good to hit for the cycle from a personal standpoint," Kotsay said. "But as you can tell, the atmosphere in this clubhouse is pretty numb right now."

Even with Jeff Francoeur highlighting his first three-hit game in 68 contests with his first homer -- a three-run seventh-inning shot off Howry -- since July 9, the Braves (55-66) weren't able to overcome the early struggles encountered by Glavine, who allowed a season-high seven earned runs and seven hits in four innings.

"Tom was just so-so," Cox said. "He couldn't get any calls on the black [of the plate]. He got behind a couple of times and left the ball up."

Facing Major Leaguers for the first time since a partially torn flexor tendon in his left elbow forced him to exit his June 10 start against the Cubs (74-47) at Wrigley Field, Glavine allowed five of the first seven batters he faced to reach safely and minimized the damage in a two-run first inning with the help of a Mark DeRosa double-play groundout.

"I wasn't totally disappointed with my location," Glavine said. "I got frustrated with the lack of a couple of calls. I felt good about my thought process and I felt good about the pitches that I tried to make. I just didn't make them consistently enough."

After surrendering consecutive singles to begin the third inning, Glavine missed with a changeup that Ramirez drilled over the center-field wall. Soriano battled back from an 0-2 count before hitting his no-doubt two-run homer to left in the fourth inning.

"Against these guys right now, you have to have your 'A' game," Glavine said. "But I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I had my 'D' game either."

While allowing four earned runs and eight hits in six innings, Cubs starter Ted Lilly wasn't exactly as dominant against the Braves as he was infuriating. Possibly retaliating for a Francisley Bueno pitch that soared over Soriano's head on Wednesday afternoon, the veteran left-hander hit Yunel Escobar with a first-pitch fastball in the sixth inning.

After Escobar pointed and yelled at Lilly, both benches cleared, but no punches were thrown.

Kotsay began his run toward history with a third-inning RBI triple and then victimized Lilly again by beginning the two-run fourth inning with his sixth homer of the season. On his way to matching a career-best five-hit performance, the Braves center fielder also had a sixth-inning single off Lilly (12-6) and a ninth-inning single off Kerry Wood.

Francoeur's homer pulled the Braves to within four runs and gave the struggling right fielder some much-needed confidence. He ended his three-hit game with a ninth-inning single off Wood.

"It felt good to have a night like that," Francoeur said. "But it would have felt better with a [win]."

If there was one good development for Glavine, it was the fact that his elbow wasn't any sorer than it was at the conclusion of his two Minor League rehab starts. During those outings, he was left to wonder if his stuff would be good enough when he began facing Major Leaguers again.

"I'm not happy," Glavine said. "Obviously, you're expectations are always high. What I worried about in my two rehab starts came to fruition tonight."

During the remainder of this season, Glavine will continue to gauge his health and performance while determining whether he wants to pitch again next year. For now, he remains hopeful that his disappointing return might have had something to do with the lineup he was facing.

"Against another team, things might have been different," Glavine said. "But that team is about as good as you're going to face -- in our league at least."

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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