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MontrealExposMON
26-26, 9-16 Away
4
Final
3
28-25, 15-13 Home

Vidro delivers key hit against Braves

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

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
innings.