Do we have to leave Puerto Rico? The Braves finished off a sweep of the Expos, and moved to .500, in a wacky extra-inning game. Javy Lopez burst out of a slump with two homers and six RBI, including a grand slam in the tenth. He wasn’t alone in the homer parade. Andruw his his fifth of the season (the Braves are 5-0 when he goes deep), Marcus Giles his second, and Rafael Furcal his first.
Furcal is now riding a nine-game hitting streak, but more importantly for his leadoff duties he drew two walks. He had drawn only one all year before today’s game, and though he’s hitting .319 his OBP is only a minimally acceptable .347. Marcus didn’t walk, but had four hits — he’d only had to stretch one of his two doubles to hit for the cycle — and is hitting .333/.423/.467. Bobby may need to send him all the way to Greenville.
Pitching-wise… Russ Ortiz has to find better control of his pitches. He walked eight batters in only 5 1/3 innings; he threw 103 pitches, 52 of which were balls. He walked in two runs in the first inning, and left another free pass on the bases for Ray King, who allowed a three-run double to blow a lead.
The Braves rallied back to take another lead, but this time Roberto Hernandez allowed a two-run homer to tie the game. The other relievers — Gryboski, Holmes, Bong, and Hodges — all pitched well. Bong picked up his second win with a perfect ninth inning, striking out two. After Ortiz’s walkathon, the other pitchers allowed no walks and four hits.
The Braves now return home for three with the Phillies. It’s a big series this early, and the Braves are now one game behind Philadelphia and Montreal for first place. Mike Hampton is scheduled to go Saturday.