published Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Braves' bullpen falters in 4-2 loss to Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies' Jimmy Rollins, right, is tagged out while stealing second base by Atlanta Braves shortstop Tyler Pastornicky in the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 1, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Philadelphia Phillies' Jimmy Rollins, right, is tagged out while stealing second base by Atlanta Braves shortstop Tyler Pastornicky in the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 1, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Photo by Associated Press.

CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA — The Braves usually can count on the back of their bullpen.

Jonny Venters let them down as his scoreless stretch to open the season ended.

Venters gave the Braves' bullpen its first loss of the season by giving up two runs on four hits in the eighth and the Braves fell to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 on Tuesday night.

Brandon Beachy gave up only two runs in seven innings to outlast Phillies starter Cole Hamels. Then the Phillies broke a 2-2 tie with two runs against Venters (2-1), the left-hander who usually sets up closer Craig Kimbrel.

"Brandon pitched his butt off," Venters said. "For me to give it away like that is unacceptable.

"I left some sinkers up in the zone and they don't miss those pitches."

The runs were the first allowed by Venters this season, ending his stretch of 8 2-3 scoreless innings.

"We were all set up to win that ball game and it kind of hurts but it wasn't Jonny's day," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Brian McCann hit his fourth homer.

John Mayberry Jr., in the game as a pinch-hitter, doubled to right off Venters with one out in the eighth. Mayberry moved to third on Jimmy Rollins' single and scored on Venters' wild pitch to Placido Polanco. Shane Victorino added an infield hit and Pence singled to right, driving in Rollins for a 4-2 lead.

"I didn't make good pitches when I needed to," Venters said.

Antonio Bastardo (1-1) pitched a perfect seventh. Jonathan Papelbon earned his ninth save by retiring the Braves in order in the ninth.

Rollins and Pence each had two hits.

"They're missing a couple big pieces but that's still a formidable lineup they're throwing out there every day," Beachy said.

The Phillies (12-12), the five-time defending NL East champions, returned to .500 after finishing April at 11-12 for their first losing record in a full month since going 11-15 in June 2009.

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Polanco singled and moved to third on a double by Pence with two outs. Ty Wigginton followed with a single which skipped past left fielder Martin Prado. Pence ran past third base before Prado's error, so Wigginton, who advanced to third, was credited with two RBIs.

After McCann's homer in the fourth, the Braves pulled even with one run off Hamels in the sixth. Singles by Freddie Freeman and Matt Diaz and a walk to McCann loaded the bases. Freeman scored from third on Juan Francisco's flyball to left field.

Hamels gave up two runs on six hits and two walks in six innings.

Beachy gave up five hits and two runs in seven innings.

"Beachy was outstanding," Gonzalez said. "He matched Cole Hamels pitch for pitch and went one inning better."

The Phillies are starting a stretch of nine straight games against NL East rivals.

"This is where we can make up our ground," Hamels said. "Hopefully this can kind of spark us into being the team that we know we're capable of being and what everybody obviously expects us to be. We're playing against better teams and teams that have better records than us and we have to change that and start getting momentum back on our side and things will flow a lot easier."

The Braves helped Beachy with two strong defensive plays in the seventh. Tyler Pastornicky made a diving grab of Pence's line drive to open the inning. Matt Diaz, running at full speed, then caught Wigginton's liner at the right-field wall.

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