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Braves Taste First Place


Every break seemed to go Atlanta's way. As a result, the Braves moved within two percentage points of the New York Mets in the NL East.

Ozzie Guillen's infield grounder scored Andruw Jones from third in the 11th inning and the Braves edged closer to first place with a 4-3 victory Friday night over the San Diego Padres.

Two questionable calls at first led to a pair of runs for Atlanta, which also took advantage of two San Diego errors. It didn't matter that the Braves squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the ninth.

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  • "With as many breaks as we had, we should have won," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said with a shrug. "We don't have many games left. Every game is important. I told the guys that this afternoon."

    The Braves (75-49) are second in the NL with a .605 percentage, just behind the New York Mets (74-48), whose game against St. Louis was rained out.

    "I don't keep up with the Mets," Jones insisted. "We've got to beat these guys. We're not playing New York right now."

    Jones led off the 11th against Carlos Reyes (2-4) with a double to left-center, and took third when Ruben Rivera misplayed the carom.

    With one out, Guillen dribbled a grounder that eluded the dive of Reyes. Second baseman David Newhan fielded the ball, but Jones easily beat the desperation throw with a head-first slide across the plate.

    "As soon as he hit the ball, I was going," said Jones, who remained at third two batters earlier when Jose Hernandez grounded out. "If he hit it harder, I would have been out. But he didn't and we won."

    Tied at 3, the Brave loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth against Dan Miceli, but Padres closer Trevor Hoffman escaped the jam.

    Phil Nevin hit a three-run homer for San Diego, but made a critical error in the eighth inning, allowing the Braves to tie the game with two unearned runs. The final run also was unearned.

    Mike Remlinger (5-1) picked up the win.

    The Padres, playing at Turner Field for the first time since winning the NL championship last year, felt victimized by a call in the fifth inning after they built a 3-0 lead.

    With runners at first and third, slow-running Eddie Perez chopped a grounder to Nevin to start an apparent inning-ending double play. But first-base umpire Bill Hohn ruled that Perez beat Damian Jackson's relay throw to first, even though television replays seemed to indicate he was out.

    First baseman Wally Joyner already had taken a few steps toward the dugout before he realized Perez was safe.

    "I could see he was out," said Tony Gwynn, who was in right field. "That one run set up everything else. You can't give a team like that many opportunities."

    Matt Clement went to the eighth with a 3-1 lead, having allowing only five hits, but was replaced by Miceli after walking Perez leading off. The Braves managed to score two runs without a hit.

    Williams was hit by a pitch and Bret Boone followed with a double-play grounder to third, only to have the ball skip under Nevin's glove and roll into short left field while pinch-runner Walt Weiss raced around to score.

    After an intentional walk loaded the bases, the Padres had another chance to get out of the inning when Brian Jordan grounded to short. But Jackson's relay was low and wide of first, allowing Jordan to barely beat the throw while Williams crossed the plate with the tying run.

    Once again, Gwynn felt like Hohn blew the call.

    "We got two bad calls and it's 3-3," he said. "You can't give a team like that an extra out."

    Braves starter Tom Glavine allowed only six hits in eight innings, but made a critical mistake by walking Clement leading off the third. Another walk with two outs brought Nevin to the plate.

    The 28-year-old journeyman, who never had more than nine homers during stints with Houston, Detroit and Anaheim, hit his 18th this season, a towering drive about 25 rows deep into the left-field seats.

    Nevin has found a home as the Padres' cleanup hitter, batting .322 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs from the fourth spot in the order. San Diego's other cleanup hitters have combined for a .202 average with 13 homers in nearly four times as many at-bats.

    Notes

  • The Padres signed free-agent LHP Matt Whisenant and optioned RHP Carlos Almanzar to Triple-A Las Vegas.
  • Earlier Friday, the Braves inducted the first class into their new team Hall of Fame at Turner Field. Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and Phil Niekro were honored with a luncheon and ceremony in the center-field plaza.
  • Gwynn's eighth-inning single against Glavine was his 1,000th hit against left-handers. He has 3,015 hits overall.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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