Reyes' struggles highlight Braves' loss
Southpaw exits early, Atlanta wastes opportunities vs. Mets
ATLANTA -- After watching his team squander multiple early scoring opportunities and stumble through an ugly eighth inning that carried the Mets to the top of the National League East standings, Braves manager Bobby Cox could have pointed his postgame venom in a number of directions.
But he chose to squarely point it in the direction of Jo-Jo Reyes, who has tested the patience of those who still believe that he has the potential to enjoy a bright career at the Major League level.
Reyes was long gone before the Mets constructed the four-run eighth inning that allowed them to overcome three errors and claim a 9-5 win over the Braves at Turner Field on Friday night. Nor was he responsible for the fact that his teammates didn't take full advantage of the multiple scoring opportunities Mets starter Oliver Perez provided during the first five innings.
But still, Cox put most of the blame on Reyes, who has started three of the seven games the Mets have won in 16 opportunities against the Braves this season.
"Jo-Jo didn't get the job done, it's as simple as that," said Cox, who has seen the 23-year-old left-hander go 0-7 with a 7.79 ERA in his past 12 appearances (11 starts).
Daniel Murphy's two-run double off Julian Tavarez highlighted the big eighth that snapped a 5-5 tie and eventually vaulted the Mets back into first place, a half-game ahead of the Phillies in the NL East.
Back when the Braves were winning the NL East on an annual basis, they didn't possess their current pitching woes, which have been compounded by the fact that Reyes has essentially shown no progress this year. In the six starts that he's made since returning from the Minors, he's gone 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA.
"It's frustrating because you know that they can do it," Cox said. "But there comes a time when they have to do it."
With the Braves battling back to tie the game in the seventh inning courtesy of Ryan Church's error on a Martin Prado single, Reyes was spared losing his eighth straight decision. But according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he still gained a dubious distinction by becoming the first Braves pitcher since Rick Mahler (1987-1988) to see his team lose 11 consecutive games that he started.
"I can only control what I do on the mound," Reyes said. "I'm not worried about confidence because I know that I've had some good starts up here."
While allowing the Mets five earned runs and seven hits in just 3 1/3 innings, Reyes was unable to complete at least five innings for the seventh time in his past 11 starts. Given that he was 3-4 with a 4.42 ERA in his first nine starts this season, it's obvious that he has steadily regressed.
"It's just been a weird year where it has seemed like nothing has gone well for the whole team," Reyes said. "We say every night that we didn't get the breaks."
Such couldn't be said during this series opener, when the Mets all but begged the Braves to earn a comeback victory. Cox's team scored its first two runs when David Wright made an errant throw to first base on Josh Anderson's two-out, second-inning grounder.
Running on the pitch to Anderson, Jeff Francoeur hustled all the way from first base to the plate to allow the Braves to erase a one-run advantage the Mets had gained when Jose Reyes opened the game by drilling Jo-Jo Reyes' 1-2 slider over the left-field wall.
The Braves' lead would be short-lived as the Mets battled back with a three-run third inning, during which Wright and Carlos Beltran smacked Reyes with consecutive RBI doubles. One inning later, after Nick Evans had drilled a leadoff homer, Reyes found himself making yet another early exit.
"They gave me a lead and I couldn't hold it," said Reyes, who hasn't won since limiting the Angels to two earned runs in eight innings on June 13.
In the end, the Braves were undone by the four-run eighth, which included three unearned runs after Kelly Johnson was unable to catch Tavarez's throw to first base on a sacrifice bunt attempt. But the tone was set during the early innings.
After putting runners at first and third with just one out in the third inning, the Braves scored just one run. Then after loading the bases with just one out in the fifth against Perez, they again scored just one run.
Chipper Jones hit an inconsequential one-out fly ball in the third inning and then exited the game with an inflamed right shoulder after striking out with nobody out and the bases loaded in the fifth inning. The veteran third baseman, who is listed as day-to-day, continues to lead the Majors with a .362 batting average.
Batting behind Jones, Omar Infante delivered an RBI single in the third inning and a sacrifice fly in the fifth. But his contributions went for naught on a night when Reyes obviously tested the ever-patient Cox.
"We played a great game and overcame a poor pitching performance," Cox said. "It's not easy to play catch-up against Perez."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.