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Galarraga Leads Braves Over Dodgers

It makes no difference to Andres Galarraga what the address is. He's going to hit a baseball a long way if it's thrown in his zone.

Galarraga came into roomy Dodger Stadium Friday night and hit a three-run homer, his 37th, to lead the Atlanta Braves to a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"They've got a big ballpark here. But when he gets a hold of one, no park's going to hold him," teammate Ryan Klesko said. "He's just a big strong guy and it seems that as he gets older, he becomes a better hitter. He's just been on fire the last four years."

After leading the NL in RBIs in each of the previous two seasons, Galarraga, 37, signed a three-year, $24.75 million contract with the Braves after five seasons with Colorado. Many thought the idea was a mistake, considering the All-Star first baseman's age and his bloated numbers at Coors Field. But Braves general manager John Schuerholz knew what he was doing.

"I'm pretty amazed how good the guy is," winning pitcher Kevin Millwood said. "You wouldn't think he's as old as he is, but he goes out there, plays hard and gets the job done."

Galarraga's three-run homer in the fourth inning off Dave Mlicki left him three homers shy of his third consecutive 40-homer season and three RBIs short of his fourth straight 100-RBI year. And it wasn't all done in the mile-high city of Denver.

"Just watching him hit the last four years, his numbers on the road were good and we knew that because he hit good against us," Klesko said. "A lot of people said, `Well, he was in Colorado.' But he did some big damage on the road the last three years, too."

Millwood (14-6) won his third straight start, allowing a run and five hits in five innings and striking out eight before leaving with a sprained right ankle. He injured his ankle while running out a grounder in the fourth.

"I don't think he ran fast enough to get hurt, but he did," Braves manager Bobby Cox joked. "I don't think he'll miss a start. Besides, he gets an extra day, anyway."

Millwood said he wasn't hurting enough to last the minimum five innings required for a victory.

"I crossed first base and kind of rolled my ankle a little bit," the right-hander said. "It was sore, but I could still pitch and that's what I told them. But it's Bobby's decision and it's probably the right one."

Javy Lopez and pinch-hitter Greg Colbrunn added RBI singles for the NL East-leading Braves, who swept the Dodgers in a three-game series at Turner Field in May and have won their last seven meetings with Los Angeles.

Kerry Ligtenberg pitched the ninth for his 19th save. The right-hander's contribution has been monumental, considering the control problems that have landed longtime closer Mark Wohlerin the minors.

"I didn't come into this season thinking I'd get an opportunity to close," Lightenberg said. "But when he got injured right away, I knew it was a big opportunity for me to step in and show people that I could do the job and they didn't need to worry as much about the closer situation."

The loss was the Dodgers' seventh in 10 games and dropped them back to the .500 mark for the 25th time this season. They trail Chicago by six games in the wild-card chase and first-place San Diego by 18 games in the NL West. The Dodgers haven't been more than 18 games back since 1993, when they finished 23 behind the Braves.

The first five Atlanta batters in the fourth inning reached base against Mlicki (6-6), who didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning when the Braves scored four times.

Galarraga drove a 3-2 pitch to the opposite field following Keith Lockhart's single and a walk to Chipper Jones. Klesko doubled off the glove of first baseman Eric Karros, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a bloop single by Lopez.

Mlicki was charged with four runs and six hits in six innings. He is 5-2 in 13 starts since the Dodgers obtained him from the New York Mets on June 4.

"I made one bad pitch," Mlicki said. "I made a mistake and it cost us. It changed the whole game around."

Raul Mondesi hit his 26th homer for the Dodgers.

Notes:

  • Braves broadcaster and Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton had his No. 20 Dodgers uniform retired in an emotional pregame ceremony. Sutton won 324 career games.
  • Matt Luke, who started in right for the injured Gary Sheffield, struck out all four times. Sheffield sat with a sprained right thumb he sustained stealing third Thursday night.
  • Lopez has 83 RBIs, the most by a Braves catcher since Earl Williams had 87 in 1971 and '72.

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