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Blue Jays hand reeling Braves 10th straight defeat

ATLANTA (AP) -- After lining out hard to center field with two
runners on base to end the Atlanta Braves' 10th straight loss,
Chipper Jones refused to blame the bullpen.

No need. Another bullpen meltdown was already apparent for all
to see.

The relievers gave up two runs in the eighth following a strong
start by Horacio Ramirez as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied for a 3-2
win Thursday night that left Atlanta with 10 straight losses for
the first time in 18 years.

With the blown save by Mike Remlinger, the Braves are only 15
for 30 in save opportunities, setting up a prime opportunity for
finger-pointing in the Braves' clubhouse.

"We're not going to do that," Jones said. "We're a team. We
talked about it among ourselves. ... This is our team. This is what
we've got and we've got to go out and play with it. There's not
going to be any finger-pointing."

Ramirez held Toronto to one run in 6 2/3 innings. Tyler Yates
recorded the final out in the seventh, but Chad Paronto walked the
only batter he faced on four pitches to open the eighth and set up
the blown save and loss by Remlinger (2-4), who gave up two hits
and was charged with the go-ahead run.

With the loss, the Braves have been swept in three straight
series of at least three games for the first time since 1977. They
have lost 10 straight games for the first time since an 0-10 start
to the 1988 season, and they fell 15½ games behind the first-place
Mets.

The beleaguered bullpen, which began the night with a 5.29 ERA,
including a 6.49 mark this month, even affected manager Bobby Cox's
offensive strategy.

After Ryan Langerhans led off the bottom of the ninth with an
infield hit, Cox decided to play for two runs instead of one. Cox
sent Langerhans on a hit-and-run that failed when Marcus Giles
didn't swing at Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan's pitch, and Langerhans
was easily thrown out at second.

The play hurt even more when Matt Diaz and Edgar Renteria hit
two-out singles before Jones' game-ending liner to center.

"I wasn't playing to tie there, not with the way our bullpen
has been going," Cox said. "I wanted two runs there."

Toronto welcomed back starter A.J. Burnett, who was pitching for
the first time since April 21. He gave up only five hits and two
runs in six innings. Burnett, who struck out seven, showed no signs
of the soreness in his right elbow that caused him to go on the
disabled list on April 22.

"It was just fun to be out there for six innings and be a part
of our first sweep," Burnett said. "I thought I threw the ball
well. I didn't try to overdo it."

In the eighth inning, Paronto walked Toronto leadoff batter
Bengie Molina, who was replaced by pinch-runner John McDonald. The
Braves' second reliever of the inning, Remlinger, gave up a single
to Lyle Overbay on his first pitch, followed by Aaron Hill's
game-tying single to right.

After Russ Adams' sacrifice bunt, Remlinger gave an intentional
walk to Reed Johnson to load the bases. Alex Rios followed with a
grounder to second off Kenny Ray, driving in Overbay for a 3-2
lead.

"Against any bullpen we like to feel we can score some runs,
not just these guys," said Johnson, who was 3-for-3 with two
walks. "We recognize they have been struggling."

The Blue Jays completed their first series sweep of the season
as they ended a 3-3 road trip and moved to three games behind the
first-place Boston Red Sox. They had failed on nine previous tries
to complete sweeps.

"It feels like the monkey is off our backs," Johnson said.
"Hopefully, we will get more. We need to. That's what the Red Sox
and Yankees do."

Ty Taubenheim (1-4) recorded two outs in the seventh for his
first win. Despite the ninth-inning trouble, Ryan got the final
three outs for his 20th save -- and third of the series -- in 21
chances.

Ramirez made his first start since June 11, when he was hit on
his head by Lance Berkman's line drive, knocking the left-hander
out of the game.

Toronto, which leads the major leagues with its .331 batting
average against left-handers, managed only seven hits off Ramirez.

Ramirez threw 105 pitches in six innings but remained in the
game for the seventh, another decision possibly influenced by the
bullpen.

The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the fourth.

With one out, Burnett hit Chipper Jones' left foot with a pitch.
Andruw Jones' infield hit and Brian McCann's single to left loaded
the bases. Jeff Francouer's grounder to short forced McCann out at
second but allowed Chipper Jones to score. Adam LaRoche drove in
Andruw Jones with a grounder past Hillenbrand at third base that
was ruled a hit.

The Blue Jays cut the lead to 2-1 in the sixth. Overbay's single
to left drove in Glaus, who led off with a double to left.

Game notes
Chipper Jones had two strikeouts on called third strikes
for the second straight game. ... Taubenheim, who has made five
starts, earned the win in his third relief appearance.