By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
ATLANTA - You can fault Jeff Austin's pitching, but you have to give him credit for self evaluation.
Austin took the loss - make that whipping - in the Reds 15-3 disaster against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday night before a 25,713 at Turner Field. Afterward, he was demoted to Triple-A Louisville, and Russell Branyan was activated from the disabled list.
"There's no question this is a better team without me right now," Austin said. "I'm proud of my time with the Reds. I love this ballclub. But in this game you have to give a team a chance to win. I haven't done that."
Austin started the game as badly as you possibly can - literally. He gave up home runs to Rafael Furcal, Mark DeRosa and Gary Sheffield to start the game.
It was only the second time in major league history that a team homered back-to-back-to-back to start a game. San Diego did it in 1987.
The three homers came in the course of six pitches. They traveled a collective 1,183 feet. A quarter mile of bombs.
Austin retired the next two hitters. He then walked Robert Fick. Javy Lopez followed with the fourth homer of the inning.
Austin was done for the night. In his last start, he gave up five runs without retiring a batter. He walked four in that one and six his start before.
"I was determined to throw strikes," he said. "(The Braves) are a very strong fastball-hitting team. I made mistakes in the strike zone and they hit them in the seats."
Austin became the first big league pitcher to fail to get out of the first inning of back-to-back starts since Scott Scudder did for Cleveland in 1992.
Scudder, oddly enough, is the last Red to achieve that dubious distinction. He did it for the Reds in 1990, but he pitched in relief in between.
The last Reds pitcher who had failed to get out of the first in two straight starts was Jim O'Toole in 1960.
Over two starts, Austin gave up 10 runs and recorded two outs.
He was 2-1 with 4.44 ERA after four starts. He's 2-3 with an 8.58 ERA now. Is it a confidence thing?
"Everything is," Reds manager Bob Boone said. "He feels horrible. I feel horrible for him. Hopefully, he can go down and find consistency. But you can't practice."
Joey Hamilton, brought up expressly to back up Austin in the event of disaster, replaced Austin.
Hamilton wasn't any better. But in fairness, he was taking one for the team. The Reds wanted to save the bullpen after two straight extra-inning games in which the relievers pitched 9 1/3 innings. Hamilton went 5 2/3 innings, allowing nine runs on 12 hits.
"I don't know what we would have done it didn't have him," Boone said.
Hamilton gave up a second home run to Furcal in the second.
Hamilton, pitching for the first time in eight days, got lit up for five more in the third to make it 11-0.
Not that it really mattered, but the Reds' offense continued to struggle as well. The Reds didn't have a hit until Aaron Boone singled with two outs in the fourth. It broke a string of 11 1/3 hitless innings from the Reds.
The Reds have lost six of their last seven games. They are 4-9 over their last 13. And they are three games under .500 (25-28) for first time since May 6.
|Griffey Jr. cf||2||0||0||0||0||0||.254|
E-Kearns (2), MFranco (3). LOB-Cincinnati 4, Atlanta 6. 2B-Casey (7), WPena (2), DeRosa (2), Sheffield (16), Fick (10), MFranco (4), JLopez (9). HR-MFranco (1), off Heredia; JLopez (13), off Austin; Sheffield (13), off Austin; DeRosa (2), off Austin; Furcal 2 (8), off Hamilton, Austin. RBIs-Casey (22), Kearns (46), Dunn (41), Furcal 2 (21), DeRosa (8), Sheffield 2 (46), CJones 3 (34), MFranco (4), JLopez 4 (27), RuOrtiz (3). SB-FLopez (8). GIDP-JLopez.
DP-Cincinnati 1 (FLopez, JCastro and Casey).
|Austin L, 2-3||2/3||4||5||5||1||0||28||8.58|
|RuOrtiz W, 7-3||6||2||2||2||2||2||87||3.66|
|Bong S, 1||3||1||1||1||1||5||44||3.90|
T-2:39. A-25,713 (50,091).
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