Vidro delivers key hit against Braves

ATLANTA (AP) -- Jose Vidro picked a good time to start another

hitting streak.


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Vidro hit a three-run double off John Smoltz with two outs in

the ninth inning, rallying the Montreal Expos to a 4-3 victory over

the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

In the previous game, Vidro's career-best 21-game streak came to

an end with an 0-for-4 night. He went hitless in his first four

at-bats Wednesday before coming through on an 0-2 pitch against the

Braves' closer.

"We beat a good pitcher,'' Vidro said. "He made a good pitch.

I got a piece of the ball and it fell in.''

Smoltz blew his third save in 17 chances, pushing his ERA to

5.93. The Braves lost for the first time in 26 games when leading

after the eighth inning.

"They found ways to get hits,'' Smoltz said. "The game was on

my shoulders and I didn't get it done. Patience is a big thing in

this role. Unfortunately, I've had some tough breaks. I'll be ready

for tomorrow and hopefully about 30 more times this season.''

The injury-depleted Braves almost came back in the bottom half.

Julio Franco hit a two-out RBI single before Scott Stewart retired

Vinny Castilla with the bases loaded to earn his third save.

"We went out and played hard,'' said Darren Bragg, filling in

for Gary Sheffield in right field. "We played good baseball. We've

got nothing to be ashamed of.''

With Atlanta ahead 2-1, Smoltz (0-2) struck out the first hitter

he faced, then gave up a single to Fernando Tatis on an 0-2 pitch.

Brian Schneider flied out, but pinch-hitter Wil Cordero singled

and Brad Wilkerson kept the inning alive by barely beating out a

chopper over the mound.

Smoltz again got two quick strikes against Vidro, who entered

the game second in the National League with a .340 average. The

first was a 97 mph fastball, the second was clocked at 98.

"That was as good of stuff as I've had in a long time,'' Smoltz

said. "I never felt the whole inning that I was going to give up

another hit.''

He tried to jam Vidro with the next pitch, but the second

baseman sent a low liner to right. Bragg made a diving attempt but

couldn't come up with the ball. All three runners scored while

Andruw Jones tracked it down.

"I got a great jump on the ball,'' Bragg said. "I thought I

read it good. I went for it and just came up short.''

T.J. Tucker (4-0) got the win with two outs in the eighth. In

the ninth, Stewart walked Sheffield and Andruw Jones, loaded the

bases but managed to survive.

"It was exciting,'' Stewart said. "I didn't want to give in to

those guys. They're good hitters. I wasn't going to let Sheffield

do anything, and I wasn't going to let Andruw Jones beat me.''

Kevin Millwood pitched seven strong innings for the Braves, who

only could use Sheffield (pulled hamstring) and Chipper Jones

(severe bruise on right calf) in pinch-hitting roles.

"It's not a game you can draw a whole lot of negatives from,''

Millwood said after surrendering only four hits and a run. "I made

the pitches when I needed to and gave us a chance to win. That's

all I'm trying to do.''

Pitcher Jason Marquis pinch-ran and scored for Sheffield after

his walk in the ninth. Jones, who was on crutches the previous

night, made a surprise appearance in the eighth, flying out with

the bases loaded.

The makeshift lineup included Franco batting third, Wes Helms

making a rare start in the outfield and Bragg -- released by the New

York Mets in spring training -- taking over in right. Also, Keith

Lockhart filled in at second for Marcus Giles, who began a stint on

the 15-day disabled list with a severely sprained ankle.

Castilla put the Braves ahead in the second with his seventh

homer of the season. He drove a hanging curve from Tomo Ohka over

the center field wall.

Millwood retired the first 11 batters he faced, a streak that

ended in the fourth when Vladimir Guerrero hit a 428-foot drive to

center for his 14th homer.

The Braves manufactured the go-ahead run in the fifth. Bragg led

off with a double, was bunted to third by Millwood and came home on

Rafael Furcal's sacrifice fly.

Game notes

SS Furcal made an errant throw in the eighth, breaking a

streak of seven straight games without an error -- one short of the

franchise record. ... Even though the Braves were alone in first

place before the game, only 20,162 fans showed up -- the smallest

crowd in Turner Field history. The Braves have surpassed their

previous low three times this season, surpassing the most recent of

21,122 for an April 24 game against Arizona. The weather certainly

wasn't a factor: The temperature was 80 degrees for the first

pitch, with clear skies. ... The Braves have scored just 40 runs in

Millwood's 11 starts, the weakest offensive support for any of

their starters. ... Ohka gave up five hits and two runs in seven