Saturday, May 3, 2003

NL: Smoltz stumbles, Braves bounce back



By Mike Fitzpatrick
The Associated Press

John Smoltz blew a save opportunity for the first time since August. No matter - the Atlanta Braves seem able to overcome anything right now.

Rafael Furcal homered leading off the 11th inning and Atlanta beat Arizona 4-2 Friday night for its sixth straight victory and eighth in a row on the road.

Smoltz had converted 27 consecutive save chances dating to Aug. 6, also at Arizona. Still, the Braves have won an incredible 63 consecutive games in which he has pitched.

"I broke a 25-game save streak the last time I was here," Smoltz said, "so I'm not really fond of this place. Fortunately, we won both games."

The streaking Braves have won 15 of 17 following a 4-8 start. Winners of a record 11 straight division titles, they took over sole possession of first place in the NL East for the first time this season.

Atlanta even pulled this one out without slugger Gary Sheffield, who was in Chicago to attend the funeral of his wife's grandmother.

In other NL games, it was: Chicago 7, Colorado 4; New York 9, Milwaukee 3; Houston 4, Florida 3; St. Louis 8, Montreal 1; San Diego 5, Philadelphia 4 in 10 innings; Pittsburgh 5, Los Angeles 3; and Cincinnati 5, San Francisco 1.

Atlanta took a 2-1 lead on Andruw Jones' RBI single in the ninth, and Smoltz came in to try to close it out. But he quickly gave up a single to Carlos Baerga and an RBI double to Mark Grace before escaping further damage.

"Gracie popped him pretty good," Braves manager Bobby Cox said, "but then he held, so in my mind, he still had a good outing."

Smoltz, who leads the majors with 11 saves, allowed a run for the second night in a row after holding the opposition scoreless in 22 consecutive appearances.

Jung Bong (3-0) followed with two scoreless innings for the victory. Atlanta added another run in the 11th on shortstop Tony Womack's two-out throwing error.

Furcal, who also singled twice, hit a 414-foot shot over the swimming pool in right-center off Matt Mantei (3-1) for his second home run of the season.

"Sometimes when some guy throws so hard like that, you do a good swing and you get a lot of power," Furcal said. "I think that's the longest home run in my life."

Cardinals 8, Expos 1

At St. Louis, Jim Edmonds homered in a five-run first inning to back Jason Simontacchi (1-1) as the Cardinals extended their winning streak to a season-best five games.

Fernando Vina homered and went 3-for-3, Mike Matheny homered and drove in three runs and Edmonds had three hits.

Tomo Ohka (2-4) gave up five runs on six hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Cubs 7, Rockies 4

At Chicago, Mark Bellhorn broke out of a slump with three RBIs to help Shawn Estes (2-3) win for the first time since April 15.

Joe Borowski got four outs for his fifth save. Shawn Chacon (4-1) gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings, his shortest outing this year.

Mets 9, Brewers 3

At Milwaukee, Tom Glavine (4-2) pitched seven strong innings and New York got 15 hits to stop a five-game losing streak.

Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead double and Roberto Alomar a run-scoring single, snapping an 0-for-21 slide.

The Brewers have lost six straight and nine of 10.

Astros 4, Marlins 3

At Houston, pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino singled home the go-ahead run off Brad Penny (2-2) in the sixth as the Astros overcame a 3-0 deficit and snapped a three-game skid.

Florida got home runs from Juan Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez, and an RBI double by Ivan Rodriguez.

Billy Wagner earned his fifth save.

Padres 5, Phillies 4, 10 innings

At San Diego, Kevin Millwood's bid for consecutive no-hitters ended on his first pitch and the Padres won on Sean Burroughs' two-run single off Jose Mesa (1-2) in the 10th.

Philadelphia took a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th on Bobby Abreu's RBI single, but San Diego rallied to end a five-game skid.

Five days after pitching his first career no-hitter in a 1-0 home win against San Francisco, Millwood allowed eight hits, including two home runs, and three runs in six innings.

Ramon Vazquez bounced a single on Millwood's first pitch, ensuring Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer remained the only pitcher to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts, in 1938.

Pirates 5, Dodgers 3

At Los Angeles, Jason Kendall hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh and Pittsburgh converted three errors into four unearned runs. Mike Williams got his eighth save in nine chances.




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