Braves remain hottest team in majors

ATLANTA (AP) -- Wes Helms knows he has to make every swing count.

Helms hit his first career grand slam, and Chipper Jones added a

three-run homer as the Atlanta Braves beat the St. Louis Cardinals

11-5 Friday night in a matchup of division leaders.

Helms, who started at third base in place of slumping Vinny

Castilla, gave the Braves a 5-0 lead in the first inning with a

395-foot shot over the left-field fence off Jason Simontacchi.

"It's was good to take advantage getting a chance to start. I'm

not trying to prove I'm better than Vinny. I just want the players

on the team to know they can depend on me to do the job,'' Helms

said. "It feels good to contribute. It's just good to get some

at-bats on a regular basis instead of once a week.''

Tom Glavine (14-6) gave up one run and six hits in five innings.

He walked one and struck out three, going back out to the mound

following a rain delay of 55 minutes in the third inning.

Simontacchi (7-3) gave up five runs in the first inning and four

more in the second -- three on Jones' 13th homer. The right-hander

left trailing 9-1 and was replaced by reliever Mike Matthews.

Simontacchi, whose ERA rose from 3.33 to 4.25, allowed seven

hits and three walks in one-plus inning. He faced five batters in

the second without getting an out.

"It was the exact opposite of what I've been doing recently.

You just can't get behind in the count and expect to win at this

level,'' Simontacchi said.

The NL East-leading Braves have the best record in the majors at

71-38. They've won three in a row, 13 of 16 and are 52-17 (.754)

since May 15.

The Cardinals, first in the Central, have dropped three in a row

-- their longest losing streak since June 20-25, when they dropped

four straight.

"When you're not throwing strikes, you don't have any chance of

doing what you want to out there,'' St. Louis manager Tony La Russa


With one out in the first, Atlanta's Julio Franco drew a walk,

Gary Sheffield grounded out and Jones walked. Andruw Jones singled

in Franco before Keith Lockhart walked, loading the bases.

Helms, in his second full season with the Braves, followed with

his sixth homer of the season.

"He got the chance and made the most of it,'' Braves manager

Bobby Cox said. "That was the big hit of the night.''

Rafael Furcal led off the Atlanta second with a single, took

second on a walk to Franco and scored on Sheffield's single.

Chipper Jones followed with his three-run shot for a 9-1 lead.

Andruw Jones then singled, chasing Simontacchi.

Chipper Jones went 3-for-4 and scored twice.

The Braves added a run in the third on a double by Furcal and

Franco's RBI single for a 10-1 lead. Henry Blanco hit a solo homer

-- his fourth -- in the seventh off Steve Kline.

The Cardinals' run off Glavine came in the second on a double by

Eduardo Perez and a run-scoring single by Mike Matheny, who went


St. Louis added four runs off reliever Kerry Ligtenberg in the

seventh on an RBI double by pinch-hitter Eli Marrero and a two-run

triple by Albert Pujols, who scored when second baseman Keith

Lockhart's errant throw skipped past third for an error.

Game notes
Glavine was 2-3 with a 7.36 ERA in six July starts. ...

Pujols, who was 3-for-5, singled in the first inning when his

two-hop liner struck second base umpire Jeff Nelson. ... Chipper

Jones had reached base six straight times (four hits, two walks)

before being called out on strikes in the third. ... Castilla, who

is nursing a slightly sore wrist, is mired in a 3-for-44 slump.