Millwood reduces Braves' magic number to four

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves can't decide who their

favorite pitcher is: Kevin Millwood or Masato Yoshii.


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Millwood pitched a three-hitter and hit a two-run double to win

his seventh consecutive decision as Atlanta roughed up Yoshii again

with a 5-0 victory over the Montreal Expos on Friday night.

The Braves, seeking their 11th straight division title, reduced

their magic number to four. Atlanta has a 19½-game lead over

Philadelphia in the NL East.

With 22 games left, the Braves' 89 wins surpass their total from

last season.

Millwood (16-6) is 14-1 in 21 starts since May 24, and the

Braves won five of those six no-decisions.

The streak is reminiscent of his 1999 breakout season, when he

went 12-3 with a 2.17 ERA over his final 20 games.

"I feel like I'm a totally different pitcher from '99 ... it's

all different,'' Millwood said. "The way I approach hitters and

approach games, it's totally different. I'm throwing as well as I

did in '99, but I'm pitching better.''

The right-hander gave up only singles to Troy O'Leary, Vladimir

Guerrero and pinch-hitter Matt Cepicky, and never allowed a runner

past second base.

Millwood struck out five and walked one in his second career

shutout. The other was April 14, 1998, against Pittsburgh.

Millwood threw just 98 pitches in his sixth career complete

game, and first since Sept. 19, 1999, against Milwaukee. He also

went 2-for-3 with a perfect sacrifice bunt and received a hearty

ovation when he batted to lead off the eighth.

Yoshii (4-8) lasted only 1 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on

seven hits to fall to 0-8 in 15 career appearances against Atlanta.

He is 0-3 with an 11.00 ERA against the Braves this season, but

can't really explain it.

"I have no idea,'' Yoshii said through a translator. "I felt

good. I don't know what was wrong. There's only one way for me to

pitch. Even if I could change, I don't think it would work. It's

hard for me to change.''

Every Braves starter except for leadoff batter Rafael Furcal had

a hit. And defensively, second baseman Marcus Giles and left

fielder Chipper Jones made the two best plays of a flawless night

for Atlanta.

"Kevin just did the rest,'' manager Bobby Cox said. "He drove

in a couple runs. And what more can you say? He pitched a


The cool praise from Cox was in sharp contrast to the fiery mood

of Montreal manager Frank Robinson, who was livid in the dugout

when Yoshii allowed four consecutive hits with one out in the

second inning.

Julio Franco started the rally with a single, and Vinny Castilla

moved him to third with a double. Henry Blanco singled in Franco.

Robinson was screaming after Millwood's double made it 4-0, and

stormed out to lift Yoshii after Marcus Giles' double scored


Robinson said catcher Brian Schneider must share some of the

blame for the big inning.

"It's not just one, it's both the pitcher and the catcher,''

Robinson said. "You've got to look at the pitcher as a hitter. You

can't think you can just throw a pitch toward home plate and get

the pitcher out. We've talked and talked about this and we haven't

corrected the problem. We keep getting hurt by the bottom of the

lineup and pitchers. If you can't handle that part of the batting

order, you're in trouble.''

Giles also doubled in the first and scored the first run on Gary

Sheffield's single.

Sheffield was returning from a nine-game layoff with a sprained

left thumb and went 1-for-3 with a walk. He jokingly dedicated his

RBI to son, Jaden Amir, who was born the night before.

"I gotta give him something, right?'' Sheffield said.

His thumb was not a problem.

"The good thing was that Shef's finger still felt good at the

end of the game,'' Cox said. "He said it felt terrific and that's

great because coming in, I didn't really know how good it was going

to be.''

Castilla also was back in the lineup after sitting out a game as

he tries to end the longest power drought of his career.

Castilla hasn't homered in 239 at-bats since June 11, but he did

bounce one over the wall for a ground-rule double during the

second-inning rally.

Britt Reames, Matt Herges and Zach Day combined to pitch 7 1/3

innings of scoreless relief for Montreal.

Game notes

Guerrero extended his hitting streak to eight games. His

177 hits lead the National League. ... Montreal's Brad Wilkerson

did not start despite a six-game hitting streak, but came in as a

defensive replacement in the seventh. He is one home run shy of the

team's rookie record of 19 set by Andre Dawson in 1977 Larry Walker

in 1990. ... Braves C Javy Lopez sat out his sixth straight game

with a sore right shoulder.