LaRoche plates Estrada with winner

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Johnny Estrada's fourth hit of the game was a

slow roller that just squeezed through the infield.

It still was a big hit.

Estrada homered, drove in three runs and started Atlanta's

go-ahead rally in the ninth inning, and the Braves beat Eric Gagne

and the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 Thursday night.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox is getting used to Estrada coming up

with key hits.

"If you look at Johnny's numbers -- his on-base percentage, his

batting average, his runs knocked in. I think he still leads the

big leagues with runners in scoring position," Cox said.

"He's having a fantastic year, and he's a great catcher.

Estrada is batting .330, including .390 (39-for-100) with

runners in scoring position, and has 63 RBI.

In a matchup of division leaders, the Dodgers had tied it 5-5 on

consecutive home runs by Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green, the second

solo homer of the night for each.

Gagne gave up a one-out RBI single to pinch-hitter Adam LaRoche

in the ninth to lose for the second time in as many nights.

"This would have been a great playoff game," said the Braves'

John Smoltz, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 32nd save in 34

chances and franchise-record 142nd of his career.

"The crowd was into it and they know what's at stake for their

city, because it's been a while. We beat a great one tonight --

Gagne in the ninth."

Gagne (4-3) gave up Estrada's leadoff single, with the ball

rolling just under the glove of diving second baseman Alex Cora.

Nick Green ran for Estrada and moved to second on Eli Marrero's

sacrifice bunt. LaRoche pinch-hit for Chris Reitsma and Green

advanced on a passed ball by Brent Mayne before LaRoche hit a

broken-bat single through the right side of the drawn-in infield.

Gagne picked up the barrel of the broken bat and angrily hurled

it off the field.

"It's so frustrating. We're playing so well and hitting the

ball so well," said Gagne, honored in a pregame ceremony for his

major league-record streak of 84 consecutive saves that ended

earlier this season.

"We should have won tonight, should have won last night," he

said. "The way we came back, it's just frustrating to give up a

run like that. It's not fun. I'll just have to come back and pitch

better the next time."

A night earlier, the Dodgers' closer had blown just his second

save in his last 100 chances, giving up four runs in the ninth and

taking the loss in a 6-4 defeat by Florida.

Asked about Gagne, Los Angeles manager Jim Tracy said, "There's

nothing wrong with Eric Gagne. He's human."

Reitsma (6-3) got the win despite giving up the two homers in

the eighth.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal made a spectacular diving stab of

Izturis' grounder up the middle and got a forceout to end that


"That play turned the game around," Cox said. "They get that

run and we're probably in deep trouble."

Beltre drove Reitsma's first pitch of the game over the wall in

right for his 36th homer. Green followed by driving a 3-2 pitch

into the seats in right-center for his 20th homer.

Los Angeles had narrowed the gap to 5-3 on Beltre's shot off

Russ Ortiz in the sixth. Green led off the second with a homer.

After the Braves scored four times in the opening inning against

the struggling Kazuhisa Ishii, the Dodgers got their first run on

David Ross' sacrifice fly in the fourth.

Although he didn't get the win, Ortiz extended his streak of

starts without a loss to 11 games, dating to June 20. He's 7-0 over

that span.

The Braves' right-hander gave up three runs and six hits.

Estrada hit a two-run double after Julio Franco put Atlanta on

the board with a sacrifice fly, and Andruw Jones drove in another

run with a broken-bat single.

Estrada made it 5-1 in the fourth when he homered off Ishii, his

eighth home run.

Ishii, who had been demoted to the bullpen, was making his

second start after rejoining the rotation to replace the injured

Brad Penny.

Ishii gave up five runs on four hits, walked three and struck

out three in four innings.Game notes
Smoltz broke Gene Garber's club record for saves. ... The

last time two Dodgers homered twice in a game was on June 30, 1996,

when Eric Karros and Raul Mondesi hit two each. ... The Braves have

won 20 of their last 26 games and are 36-12 in their last 48 to

vault from six games below .500 to 18 games over.