ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves have first place all to
themselves -- even though they're barely able to stand.
The ailing Braves lost two more players but took over sole
possession of the top spot in the NL East for the first time this
season with a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Expos on Tuesday night.
"It was a good and bad day,'' said Chipper Jones, who left the
clubhouse on crutches. "We're in first all by ourselves, and we
have guys off the bench doing what it takes. But we had to pay the
price with a couple of guys going down.''
Jones fouled a ball off his right leg in the second inning,
leaving an imprint of the words "National League'' on his uniform.
In the sixth, Marcus Giles severely sprained his right ankle trying
to avoid a tag; he was put on the disabled list after the game.
Still, Atlanta won for the ninth time in 12 games to reclaim the
position that has been so familiar over the last decade.
The Braves, who have won an unprecedented 10 straight division
titles, pushed ahead by a game when the New York Mets lost to
"I like it a lot,'' manager Bobby Cox said. "That's what we've
been shooting for all year. I'd rather be in first than last.''
Atlanta had to get creative during a four-run fifth that wiped
out Montreal's 2-0 lead.
Gary Sheffield, sidelined with a pulled left hamstring, hobbled
off the bench to draw a bases-loaded walk as a pinch-hitter, making
it 2-1. Sheffield immediately left for pinch-runner Jesse Garcia,
who was forced to play the outfield for the first time in his
Julio Franco, the replacement in the order for Chipper Jones,
followed with a RBI single to the hole between third base and
Batting next, Andruw Jones had the home crowd groaning when he
fouled a pitch off his left foot. He needed a few minutes to
recover but was able to stay in, ripping the next pitch into left
field for a tiebreaking two-run single.
Damian Moss (2-1) gave up two runs in five innings for the win,
and the Braves' bullpen held Montreal scoreless the rest of the
way. John Smoltz worked a scoreless ninth for his 14th save.
Masato Yoshii (2-2) gave up three runs in 1 1-3 relief innings
in the loss.
Chipper Jones was hurt leading off the second. The Braves' most
effective hitter sustained a severe bruise when he fouled a pitch
off his upper right calf. Unable to put any weight on the leg, he
had to be helped off the field by assistant trainer Jeff Porter.
Jones said he'll likely be out for at least two or three games.
"When you have trouble standing vertical,'' he said, "it's a
Giles was hurt when he leaped in the air, trying to avoid a tag
by first baseman Andres Galarraga, and came down awkwardly on his
right ankle. Giles collapsed to the turf in pain, and Cox already
was jotting down a change on his lineup card before Porter reached
the injured player.
Trainer Dave Pursley said Giles would be out at least two or
three weeks -- even longer if an MRI on Wednesday shows more serious
damage. The Braves called up Matt Franco from Triple-A Richmond
after the game.
Atlanta, which is carrying 12 pitchers, finished with a
makeshift lineup that included Garcia in right and Wes Helms in
left, playing only his fourth career game as an outfielder. Pitcher
Greg Maddux also had to pinch-hit.
Of course, this is nothing new for Atlanta. Sheffield has been
plagued by injuries all season, B.J. Surhoff sustained a
year-ending knee injury and Mark DeRosa could be out for two months
with a damaged ankle.
Moss allowed a homer to Fernando Tatis in the second, but saved
another run by picking off Orlando Cabrera. Montreal scored its
other run on a wild pitch.
Moss and the bullpen snapped Jose Vidro's career-high 21-game
hitting streak. The Expos second baseman went 0-for-4.
"It's not often people want to shake your hand when you go
0-for-4,'' Vidro said. "I'm not down. It's going to happen sooner
or later. It was a good run. I was fortunate.''
Britt Reames made his first start of the season after 23 games
as a reliever. He threw three hitless innings but wasn't
conditioned to go any longer.
"I'm the same guy, just in a different role,'' Reames said. "I
had no idea it was a no-hitter. Three innings is not much of a
Montreal brought in part-time closer Matt Herges in the
fifth inning after the Braves scored four times against Yoshii and
Graeme Lloyd. Herges escaped the jam with two strikeouts, but it
was too late. ... Vladimir Guerrero dropped a routine fly in the
seventh to give the Braves another run.