Lowe roughed up in 6-1 Braves loss (UPDATED)

LOS ANGELES – The Braves liked their chances Wednesday, with hot hand Derek Lowe facing Jon Garland and his 11.25 ERA at Lowe's old Dodger Stadium stomping grounds.

Even with Lowe on short rest, they liked the odds.

By the second inning, their outlook had changed entirely.

The Dodgers scored five runs in the first two innings and Garland threw a 4-hit complete game in a 6-1 win, his first CG since 2009.

The Braves lost for the 10th time in 15 games, scored fewer than three runs for the ninth time in 16 games, and must win Thursday's series finale to salvage a split of the four-game series.

"Sometimes you just get your brains beat in, and that’s what happened," said Lowe, who was replaced after throwing 78 pitches in just three innings, with five runs, nine hits and a costly walk to the pitcher beside his name.

“I just was not very good. This had nothing to do with days’ rest." Lowe said.  "I never got in a good rhythm. They did a lot of taking. It just … it beat me up. I wasn’t very sharp and they took advantage.  God, 80 pitches in three innings."

The Braves have been outscored 20-9 in the first inning this season, and four of Atlanta's first-inning runs came in one inning Thursday in a 6-5 loss to Florida. In two losses in this series, the Braves trailed 3-0 and 2-0 after the first inning.

“Yeah, we just got blitzed again, first and second inning," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "You saw the intensity in the at-bats in the first couple of innings, and then we fell behind 5-1 or 6-1, and there’s no telling from then on how many at-bats were wasted."

Garland threw 102 pitches in nine innings and two walks with four strikeouts, including three strikeouts of Jason Heyward, whose average fell to .190.

Heyward has hit .152 with two RBIs in his past 13 games, and his 0-for-13 in the first three games of the  series made him 3-for-41 with 15 strikeouts in his career against the Dodgers.

Do they pitch him differently than other teams?

“I don’t know, necessarily," Heyward said. "They’re pretty aggressive in the strike zone. They throw all their pitches in the strike zone... On a night when [Garland]  had his stuff and I didn’t have my best swing, that’s not going to match up too well.”

The damage to Lowe included a pair of two-run, two-out singles by Juan Uribe, who came in batting .183 with three RBIs for the season. Lowe was asked about his pitch selection to Uribe, who's 5-for-8 in his career against the right-hander.

“Hanging breaking balls," he said wryly. "If you drew a circle they’d probably be in the same exact spot. Again, some days you just don’t pitch well and you lose. Today was one of those days.”

It was the briefest start for Lowe since Aug. 29, when he had an eerily similar pitching against the Marlins – 78 pitches, three innings, five runs allowed.

He missed a start after that for a sore elbow, then began a resurgence that including a 7-2 record and 1.46 ERA in nine regular-season starts before Wednesday, including five straight wins in September.

He had not allowed more than two runs in nine starts, but he gave up that many in the third inning Wednesday – after allowing two runs in the first inning.

“He’s been great," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "It’s just one of those games. He had trouble locating his pitches. He’s been nothing but great, so this is just one game and turn the page.”

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “Being a sinkerball pitcher he is going to give up ground balls, and they happened to be in the holes. We just couldn’t seem to get that third out tonight.”

Lowe had a small cut on the thumb of his pitching hand in his previous start, from the nail of another finger scraping against it throwing breaking balls. He said it wouldn't affect him, and after Wednesday's game Lowe reiterated that.

“Heck no; I wish it did," he said. "I just threw way too many non-competitive pitches. I mean, to throw 80 pitches in three innings. And then walking the pitcher with one out just led to disaster.  So all in all, it was no good.”

Lowe,  37, was 4-2 with a 3.60 ERA in seven previous starts on short rest. He said that also had nothing to do with his performance Wednesday, but some wondered.

“I don’t know if [he was affected] by three days’ rest or whatever, but he just seemed to be struggling with command," Jones said. "[But] with the exception of a couple of balls that [Andre] Ethier hit, he wasn’t hit hard. I don’t remember another ball on the barrel to be honest with you, other than Ethier’s.

"That’s baseball. You’ve just got to keep going out there and maybe we’ll get those breaks tomorrow.”

Ethier extended his hitting streak to 17 games and went 3-for-4 with a single, double and his 100th career homer, making him the 15th L.A. Dodger to that standard. He's hurt the Braves for a while, hitting .348 with 13 extra-base hits (four homers) and 15 RBIs in his past 18 games against them.

Braves pitchers' .284 opponents’ average in the first inning was the second-highest in the National League before Wednesday, and their .363 opponents’ on-base percentage in the first inning was the highest.

Lowe had been largely immune to that team problem, with a .214 first-inning opponents’ average that was in sharp contrast to fellow starters Tim Hudson (.524), Brandon Beachy (.368) and Tommy Hanson (.353).

Wednesday, he joined the first-inning victims. The Dodgers jumped on him, getting a Casey Blake single and Ethier ground-rule double before Lowe's  second out.

Uribe drove both runners in with a two-out single.

Lowe looked out of sorts in the second inning, when he walked Garland with one out. That proved  costly when the Dodgers got four consecutive two-out hits, including Ethier’s RBI single and Uribe’s two-run single on a full-count fastball.

Lowe had allowed five runs in his first five outs, and the Braves again faced the kind of big early deficit that Jones said this week had contributed to the team’s offensive problems.

The Braves wasted scored opportunities in the first two innings, getting a leadoff single by Martin Prado in first inning and leadoff walk by Dan Uggla in the second. They failed to advance the runner even as far as second base in either inning.

They trailed 5-0 before scoring a run in the third on Prado's sacrifice fly, after Nate McLouth (2-for-3) hit a leadoff double and advanced on a Lowe sacrifice.

“I feel like we hit balls hard early – Chipper hit some balls, everybody did," Prado said. "But they got that big lead at the beginning of the game. After that, I guess [Garland] got confidence and started dealing.

“We’ve just got to try to find that consistency, where we can come every day and get some run support for our pitching staff.”

After Prado's first-inning single, Heyward popped out to second base on the next pitch. He's 1-for-24 with no walks in his past 6 games against the Dodgers.

Jones followed with a towering flyout to the center field warning track and McCann flied out deep to left to end the inning. With the wood the Braves put on balls early, it seemed like they would solve Garland eventually.

“I thought we squared up a lot more balls than the line score indicates," Jones said. "But the bottom line is, we’ve got to get through the first couple of innings still in the game.”

Staked to a 5-0 lead, Garland's task got easier and the Braves began to go down quietly as the innings clicked away.