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Braves extend lead over Expos on NL East

ATLANTA (AP) -- It's hard to say who was more responsible for the
latest Atlanta victory -- Matt Franco or the bullpen.

Either way, the Braves are turning the NL East into a race for

Franco hit his first career grand slam, and five relief pitchers
held the Montreal Expos to one run over six innings to lead Atlanta
past Montreal 7-5 Monday night.

The Braves trailed 4-1 after three innings but won for the 11th
in 12 games to push their lead in the NL East to 9 1/2 games over the
Expos, who lost their third straight.

"You get down early in the game, you got all night to win it,''
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.

Kerry Ligtenberg (2-3) pitched two scoreless innings for the
win. He replaced Tom Glavine, who left the game in the third with a
blister on his index finger.

Glavine wasn't sure if he would make his next start.

"It feels good in between but once I get out in the game and
turn it up and try to hold onto the ball and get it down where I
want to, it starts causing that friction again,'' he said. "It's
really raw and it gets sore.''

Glavine suffered the same blister problem in his previous start
last Thursday against the New York Mets. Against the Expos, Glavine
gave up four runs and seven hits, including homers by Vladimir
Guerrero and Fernando Tatis.

In his 16th season, he said he's never had blisters before this

"That's why I don't understand it,'' he said. "It's new to

Relievers Darren Holmes, Tim Spooneybarger and Chris Hammond
held Montreal in check until the ninth, when John Smoltz came in to
get his 28th save in 31 chances.

Jose Vidro homered off Smoltz to start the ninth. Orlando
Cabrera, who had four hits, lined out to center field with two
runners on to end it.

The Braves' bullpen now has a major league-leading 2.32 ERA.

"We're on a roll right now,'' Ligtenberg said. "It seems every
night we're chomping at the bit to get out there and get people out
and keep winning ballgames. It's been a lot of fun.''

With one out in the fifth, Keith Lockhart reached on a two-base
error by left fielder Wil Cordero and pinch-hitter Darren Bragg
drew a walk from Javier Vazquez (5-5).

Rafael Furcal singled to load the bases, and Franco followed
with a line drive over the scoreboard in right to give Atlanta a
5-4 lead. It was his first career slam.

Franco, who signed with the Braves as a minor league free agent
in the offseason, has hit four home runs since he was called up
from Triple-A Richmond on May 29. He's hitting .364.

Despite a standing ovation after his homer, Franco didn't
immediately come out of the dugout for the curtain call.

"I wasn't sure that's what they wanted,'' he said with a grin.
"A couple of the guys finally pushed me out there.''

The Expos took a 4-1 lead in the third. Jose Macias doubled and
moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Vidro. After Guerrero walked,
Tatis hit a fly ball to right that barely carried over the wall for
a three-run homer.

"It was a tough one, with the situation we're in,'' Montreal
manager Frank Robinson said. "Coming in here, we had to win every
game in this series. We got out to a good start, but give them

Guerrero and Gary Sheffield traded solo shots in the first to
leave the game tied at 1.

Atlanta catcher Javy Lopez had a tough night. He let one of
Ligtenberg's curves scoot between his legs for a passed ball in the
fifth, and committed a more serious blunder in the sixth.

With two on, he failed to run out a pop up in the middle of the
infield, breaking his bat over his knee instead. But Vazquez
dropped the ball, and Lopez was an easy out at first. Vinny
Castilla, who was on first, was tagged out also for a double play.

Game notes
Atlanta RHP Jason Marquis pinch-hit for Glavine in the
third inning, striking out on three pitches. ... Vidro, who's .334
average entering the game led the team, had a sacrifice bunt in the
third inning, moving Macias over to third. It appeared the bunt
might be good enough for a hit, but Vidro jogged to first and was
out easily.