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Cox Has A Ball In Braves' Shutout

When Denny Neagle pitches a shutout, he usually collects the ball from the last out as a family keepsake.

On Tuesday night, Neagle felt it was only appropriate to give the ball to Bobby Cox.

Neagle pitched a four-hitter and the Atlanta Braves cruised to a 7-0 victory over the Florida Marlins, making Cox the winningest manager in Braves history.

"I keep most of my game balls or give them to my dad," Neagle said. "But when I came off the field and saw everyone congratulating him, I remembered he had set the record. So I gave him the ball. That's incredible what he's done, awesome."

Cox has 1,005 victories in two stints as the Atlanta manager, breaking the record set by Frank Selee from 1890-1901, when the franchise was in Boston.

"Maybe I'll look back at that some day when I retire," said Cox, whose overall record of 1,360-1,111 makes him the 22nd winningest manager in major league history. "But I'm just looking at the standings right now."

The Braves, first in the NL East, pushed their margin over the last-place Marlins to 26 ½ games, showing just how far Florida has fallen since its World Series title.

The decimated Marlins, meeting Atlanta for the first time since beating the Braves in last year's league championship series, fell behind 6-0 in the first inning and never got a runner past second base against Neagle.

"I don't mean to make fun of that team, but when I got to the park and looked at the lineup card, I almost laughed," said Neagle, who snapped a personal three-game losing streak. "I mean, guys like (David) Berg, (Mike) Redmond. It shocked me even more when I saw the starting lineup."

Florida now resembles a Triple-A team, with only one starter shortstop Edgar Renteria and eight players from the 25-man roster that defeated the Braves in the NLCS. The starting pitcher was 21-year-old Joe Fontenot, who was with the Shreveport Captains of the Texas League last season.

The Braves, on the other hand, still have 17 players from the team that won 101 games and the East Division before losing to the wild-card Marlins in the NLCS.

"They don't resemble that team from last year at all," Cox said. "It's going to take a while to challenge again."

Fontenot (0-4) allowed five runs before recording his first out. He walked leadoff hitter Walt Weiss, then gave up a single to Keith Lockhart and a run-scoring double by Chipper Jones.

After a trip to the mound by Florida manager Jim Leyland, Andres Galarraga walked on four pitches to load the bases and Ryan Klesko hit a 1-2 pitch into the right-field bleachers for his 12th homer of the season and sixth career grand slam.

Javy Lopez followed with a double before Fontenot finally got an out on Michael Tuckers drive to wall in right. Lopez tagged and went to third before scoring on Andruw Jones' sacrifice fly.

"It happened so fast," said Fontenot, who gave up six runs, six hits and four walks in four innings. "I didn't give us a chance to win."

Neagle (8-4) was coming off a 10-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox in which he gave up a career-high eight runs. The Marlins were the perfect opponent to get a pitcher back on track, using a lineup that has accounted for just 34 homers.

The left-hander struck out nine one short of his season high and didn't have a walk in his team-high fourth complete game and second shutout. The only hitter who gave him trouble was Redmond, who had his second three-hit game in five days.

"It's tough enough to hold the Braves even for a few innings," Leyland said. "You give up a six-spot in the first inning, and you figure it's going to be a long night."

It was, even though the Braves didn't score again until Neagle's RBI single in the eighth. The Marlins lost their 10th straight road game.

"It's discouraging in a lot of ways," said catcher Gregg Zaun, one of the few remaining players from last year's title team. "Deep down inside, it hurts."

Notes: All three Florida starters scheduled to pitch in this series were in either Class A or AA last season. ... Lockhart returned to the lineup after missing five games with a sore shoulder, and Weiss was back after sitting out two games with a strained left quadriceps. ... Renteria was named the NL player of the week. ... Before Tuesday, Florida had outscored its opponents 72-42 in the first inning. ... John Smoltz, a Michigan native, was dancing around the clubhouse in a Detroit Red Wings jersey, celebrating the Red Wings' victory in the Stanley Cup finals. He also won a bet with Neagle, a Maryland native and Washington Capitols fan, who will have to spend the next week adorned in the Red Wings sweater.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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