ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves soared to the top of the NL
East without much help from Javy Lopez. If he continues his recent
hot streak, who knows how far they might go.
Lopez came through for the second straight game, hitting an RBI
double to snap a seventh-inning tie and send Atlanta to a 5-1
victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.
The Braves won for the 13th time in 15 games and improved to
54-31, tied with Seattle for the best record in the majors. The
Cubs lost for the eighth time in 10 games.
''I don't know how many times I can do it,'' Lopez said.
He tied a season high with three hits to raise his average to
.245, and drove in two runs. Two of the hits were bloops into
shallow right field, which Lopez hopes signals a change in his
''Those two bloops were nice. I've hit so many balls hard this
year that were caught or called an error,'' he said. ''I hope this
gets me going.''
in the seventh to preserve a 1-all tie.
Mark Prior (2-2) allowed just three hits through six innings but
gave up a leadoff single to Chipper Jones in the seventh and hit
third, Lopez lined a fastball off the base of the wall in
right-center for a 2-1 lead.
Chipper Jones scored easily, but a one-hop relay from second
baseman Mark Bellhorn nailed Andruw Jones at the plate by a couple
''I can't wait for that fastball down the middle,'' Lopez said.
On Wednesday night, Lopez hit a game-winning infield single in
the ninth to give Atlanta a 6-5 victory over Montreal.
''I'll be glad to do it every day,'' he said.
The Braves added three in the eighth, helped by third baseman
Bill Mueller's two-out error. With runners at the corners, Mueller
couldn't handle Castilla's bouncer, allowing one run to score.
Lopez and Keith Lockhart followed with RBI singles off Tom
Gordon, extending the lead to 5-1. John Smoltz got out of a
bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth for his 29th save in 32
Prior, 21, and Jason Marquis, 23, were locked in a 1-1 tie
through six innings. The Braves scored in the first on a sacrifice
fly by Gary Sheffield, and the Cubs tied it in the third on Sosa's
Marquis struggled with his control, and it finally caught up to
him in the seventh. He issued a leadoff walk to Todd Hundley, then
walked Prior an out later. Remlinger came on to strike out Corey
Patterson before Mueller loaded the bases with an infield single,
bringing Sosa to the plate.
With flashbulbs popping all over the park, Sosa struck out
looking, watching a changeup curl over the inside corner.
''With the bases loaded, regardless of who's hitting, you have
to be aggressive,'' Remlinger said. ''With Sammy hitting, you have
to be aggressive and also try to make a pitch. I didn't want to go
away again with a fastball, so I figured I'd throw the changeup
Sosa dropped his bat and looked skyward, but didn't appear to
say anything to umpire Ed Rapuano.
''It was a hell of a pitch,'' Sosa said. ''He made the call.
What are you going to do?''
It was the second game in a row Remlinger got out of a jam. He
struck out two with the bases loaded in the seventh Wednesday night
The Cubs threatened in the eighth against Chris Hammond, loading
the bases on Bellhorn's check-swing infield single. The ball
carried just out of Hammond's reach, and second baseman Lockhart
collided with Darren Lewis when he charged for the ball.
But pinch-hitter Moises Alou flied out to end the inning.
''That's been us all year,'' Chicago manager Don Baylor said.
''We load the bases three times and come away with no runs.''
Prior gave up two sharp singles to Rafael Furcal and a bloop hit
to Lopez through six innings, striking out five. After Furcal's
second single in the third, Prior retired 10 of the next 11 batters
before the Braves got to him in the seventh.
Even though he's been effective, Prior hasn't won since beating
the Mariners 2-0 June 12.
''I was doing the same thing I've been doing ever since I was
called up,'' he said. ''I'm upset at myself, because I thought I
was pitching well.''
Furcal made his third error in two games, throwing high
to first after fielding a grounder by Hundley in the second inning.
... Furcal's single in the first extended his hitting streak to a
career-high 13 games. ... The crowd of 49,967 was Atlanta's fifth
sellout of the season.