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Wednesday, Apr. 4 7:05pm ET
Braves beat Mets despite Rocker's struggles

ATLANTA (AP) – If the first two games are any indication, the NL East race between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets should be exceptional.

Brian Jordan
Atlanta's Brian Jordan crosses the plate with the winning run on Keith Lockhart's fielder's choice in the ninth inning.

Pinch-hitter Keith Lockhart knocked in the winning run on a fielder's choice in the ninth inning and the Atlanta Braves edged the New York Mets 3-2 on Wednesday night.

The Mets had tied it at 2 in their half of the ninth off John Rocker on an RBI single by Jay Payton.

Brian Jordan opened the Braves' ninth with a walk off loser Donne Wall before Turk Wendell came on and retired Javy Lopez on a fly to left.

Rico Brogna, however, doubled to right, sending Jordan to third before Lockhart hit a bouncer to the right side of the mound. Wendell fielded the ball, but his off-balance throw home wasn't close as Jordan scored the game-winner.

"It was like slow motion (the final play)," Wendell said. "I'll probably laugh when I see the replay. I don't know if I was falling with class, or if there was anything athletic about it."

"Wow," said Braves manager Bobby Cox after the second straight game between the two clubs with last-minute heroics.

On Tuesday, the Mets won 6-4 in 10 innings when Robin Ventura hit the second of his two-run homers.

The two favorites in the NL East still have 17 matchups left in a year when the schedule was expanded so division teams would play each other more often.

The Braves got six strong innings from Millwood, who had a poor spring. The Atlanta right-hander, who struggled with a 12.46 ERA during spring training, gave up three hits, one run, walked one and struck out two.

"I feel pretty good about tonight," Millwood said. "It was something I worked toward during the spring. It wasn't pretty in the spring, but I feel like I'm where I need to be now."

Millwood had said all spring he wasn't concerned with his stats.

"My numbers during the spring didn't bother me. Today was a good example. It's a different mindset for me in the regular season," he said.

Ventura, who hit a two-run homer off Rocker in Tuesday night's 6-4 Mets win over the Braves, led off the ninth against Rocker by drawing a walk on a 3-2 count.

Rocker struck out Mike Piazza, but walked Todd Zeile, also on a 3-2 pitch, advancing pinch runner Joe McEwing to second.

Payton then singled to left, scoring McEwing easily, but Zeile got caught between second and third and was tagged out by Chipper Jones for the second out before pinch-hitter Todd Pratt popped out to end the inning.

Rocker (1-0) got the win despite giving up the tying run. He gave up one hit, walked two and struck out one in his inning of work.

The Braves had gone ahead 2-0 in the fourth off Kevin Appier, making his National League debut, on a two-run single by Jones.

Millwood also had a hand in the Braves' scoring.

He reached with one out in the fourth when he struck out on a wild pitch and Rafael Furcal singled him to second. After Quilvio Veras grounded out, Andruw Jones walked to load the bases and Chipper Jones followed with his single to right field off the glove of a diving Timo Perez, giving Atlanta a 2-0 lead.

Appier, who signed a four-year, $42 million free agent deal during the winter after 11 seasons in the AL, allowed two runs and five hits in six innings.

"I thought I pitched pretty good, certainly not great," Appier said.

The Mets made it 2-1 in the sixth when Perez singled with one out off Millwood and went to second on a walk to Edgardo Alfonzo.

Ventura then grounded to Brogna at first, and he threw Alfonzo out at second, but shortstop Furcal's throw to first went wild for an error, scoring Perez with Ventura taking second.

Piazza then singled to center, but Andruw Jones threw out Ventura at the plate on a perfect one-hop throw to Lopez.

Game notes
The Braves are 19-4 in their last 23 meetings at Turner Field against the Mets, including 3-0 in the postseason. ... In Atlanta's first two games, all 10 runs allowed by Braves pitchers were the result of home runs.

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