Braves lose eighth straight, extend worst skid in 17 years

ATLANTA (AP) -- After being swept in their first two series against National League teams this season, the Toronto Blue Jays were determined to end that pattern in their series opener at Atlanta.

"We managed it like it was the seventh game of the World Series; it was a game we had to have," said Toronto manager John Gibbons after the Blue Jays beat the Braves 6-5 on Tuesday night to give Atlanta its first eight-game losing streak in 17 years.

Gibbons used 18 players, including six pitchers, in the game.

Reed Johnson homered and had three hits as Toronto improved to 1-6 against the National League this season.

"We obviously didn't get off to a good start in interleague play, so it was huge for us to win a game like that," Johnson said.

The Braves are losing to teams from both leagues. They have dropped eight straight games -- four to the NL and four to the AL -- for the first time since April 24-May 2, 1989. Atlanta has lost 18 of 21 to drop to the bottom of the NL East.

"It's beyond confusion," said Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur. "We're making too many good plays, too many good pitches to not win. We've just got to keep going."

Alex Rios drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning for Toronto, which rebounded from a three-game sweep by Florida over the weekend. The Blue Jays won after the Braves fought back for a 4-4 tie in the sixth and a 5-5 tie in the seventh.

Each time the Atlanta bullpen gave the lead back to the Blue Jays.

"You get hope there for a minute, and 20 minutes later it's gone and you're back down again," said Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche. "Nothing's gonna come easy right now."

The Braves' bullpen began the night with a 5.29 ERA, last in the NL.

"Somebody has to hold somebody," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "They have a lot of pride in what they do. It's just we're not holding anybody."

The Blue Jays kept pace with Boston and New York in the AL East. Toronto is still 3½ games behind the first-place Red Sox.

"All of the wins are great for us with the Red Sox and Yankees playing the way they are," Johnson said after lifting his batting average to .369.

In the eighth, Rios drove in pinch-runner Eric Hinske from third with a single to left. Hinske was running for Bengie Molina, who led off the inning with a walk from Tyler Yates (0-1).

Scott Schoeneweis (2-0), who struck out pinch-hitter Matt Diaz with the bases loaded to end the seventh, earned the win, giving up two walks in one inning. B.J. Ryan got the final four outs for his 18th save in 19 opportunities.

Toronto's Josh Towers, recalled from Triple-A Syracuse for the start, gave up six hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander had four strikeouts with one walk and gave up a long home run to Andruw Jones.

Atlanta's Jorge Sosa gave up eight hits and four runs in six innings, including home runs to Johnson and Troy Glaus.

The Blue Jays scored two runs in the fourth inning to build a 2-0 lead. After Vernon Wells hit a one-out double to left field, Sosa struck out Glaus. But with two outs, Sosa walked Lyle Overbay and gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Shea Hillenbrand and Molina.

Jones' 17th homer in the fourth inning cut the lead to 2-1.

Johnson extended the lead to 3-1 in the fifth inning with his fourth homer of the season. Glaus added his 21st homer, which traveled 438 feet to center, to lead off the sixth inning for a 4-1 lead.

The Braves rallied with three runs in the sixth, knocking Towers out of the game.

A single by Francouer, the Braves' third hit of the inning, drove in Chipper Jones. A grounder by LaRoche off reliever Scott Downs drove in Brian McCann from third. Scott Thorman's first major-league hit, a single to right, tied the game at 4-4.

Toronto answered quickly off 6-foot-8 right-hander Phil Stockman in the seventh. Johnson led off with a double, his third hit of the game. A single by Rios moved Johnson to third, and he scored on a grounder to second by Wells for a 5-4 lead.

The Braves again pulled even in the bottom of the seventh when Marcus Giles reached on shortstop Aaron Hill's error and scored on Edgar Renteria's double to right off Justin Speier.

Game notes
Molina extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest for the Blue Jays this season, with his run-scoring single in the fourth inning. ... Andruw Jones threw out Hillenbrand at the plate in the sixth inning when he attempted to score from first when Molina's single bounced past Jones. Jones' throw was to the first-base side of the plate, but McCann made a lunging tag for the out. ... Wells stole second and third in the seventh.