ATLANTA - There was one early, very telling indication that the Braves would be in for a rough night Tuesday: They won the day before.
For most teams, that's a good sign. But for the Braves lately, it's a recipe for trouble, as if no step forward could possibly be followed by another one.
It had been more than two weeks since Atlanta had won back-to-back games. And like clockwork, after beating the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday, the Braves lost 5-2 Tuesday at Turner Field.
Buddy Carlyle lasted just 12⁄3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. He gave up three runs on four hits -including two homers - and three walks.
But as bad as things began, with Philadelphia scoring three runs in the first two innings, pitching wasn't the biggest problem for the Braves. Timely hitting was.
Atlanta got nothing out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the fifth inning and left eight runners on base. And the Braves were held under three runs for the fifth time in six home games, deflating the announced crowd of 22,130.
That loud crack fans heard with the Braves up in the seventh? It was nothing to get excited about. Just Chipper Jones slamming his helmet off the first-base path in disgust after grounding out to end the inning.
So it goes for the Braves (70-69), who have lost five of seven and 10 of their last 14 games.
Two months ago, Carlyle was the feel-good story of the Braves' season, the journeyman who finally found a home. He had a 3.23 ERA in July and brought much-needed depth to Atlanta's rotation.
But his performance has dropped off steadily since then. Carlyle had a 6.75 ERA in August, he has a 9.18 ERA in his last four starts and he has not lasted more than five innings since July 26.
He started off well enough on Tuesday, retiring the first two Philadelphia batters in the first inning. But getting the third out proved a bit tougher. He walked Pat Burrell, then gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Howard, who had also homered off Carlyle in an Aug. 12 loss at Philadelphia.
Carlos Ruiz hit a solo home run to lead off the second inning, putting the Phillies ahead 3-0. And with two outs and Howard coming up again, manager Bobby Cox didn't want to take any chances. He pulled Carlyle and brought in Jo-Jo Reyes from the bullpen.
Jones cut the deficit to 3-1 with a solo homer in the fourth, drilling a 1-0 pitch from Kyle Lohse an estimated 435 feet to center field. But Reyes gave the run back in the fifth on an RBI sac fly by Ruiz.
It was the only run Reyes would allow in 31⁄3 innings.
The Braves had a chance to do major damage with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth. But they got only one run.
Willie Harris and Kelly Johnson popped out in the infield, Jones forced in a run by drawing a walk and Mark Teixeira grounded out to end the inning.
Aaron Rowand put Philadelphia ahead 5-2 with an RBI single in the ninth. By then, many fans were already on their way out.