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Phillies Drop Braves To 2nd


On a broiling, boisterous night at Turner Field, the lights went out, three Braves were ejected and Atlanta was tossed out of first place after the All-Star break for the first time in five years.

Paul Byrd pitched seven strong innings and was at the center of a bench-clearing brawl as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Braves 9-2 Friday.

"I'm frustrated with what happened tonight," said Byrd (12-6), a part-time member of the Atlanta pitching staff in 1997 and '98. "You have to understand, I was mistaken for the bat boy here several times, so for all those fans to be yelling at me now, I just started praying."

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  • The Braves, who fell a half-game behind the New York Mets in the NL East, haven't been out of first place this late in the season since July 22, 1994. But their place in the standings was overshadowed by a 16-minute power outage and three heated exchanges on the field.

    Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, starting pitcher John Smoltz and catcher Eddie Perez were ejected in separate incidents during the third and fourth innings.

    Perez was tossed in the top of the fourth for shoving and then throwing a punch at Phillies pitcher Paul Byrd, who had hit Perez with a pitch the previous inning. The altercation occurred when Byrd came to bat.

    Both benches emptied and a melee ensued, with players on both sides shoving each other. When order was restored, Perez was ejected and replaced by Greg Myers. Perez left the ballpark before the game ended and was not available for comment.

    The bad blood between Perez and Byrd, former Braves teammates, started Sunday in Philadelphia when Byrd who leads the majors with 13 hit batters plunked Perez wit a pitch in Atlanta's 5-4, 10-inning win.

    "If someone gets hit, there's nothing I can do," Byrd said. "When you hit somebody, you're conscious of trying not to do it again. It's like when you're trying not to walk somebody and then you throw ball three and four. It was not my intention by any means."

    In the bottom of the third Friday, Byrd again hit Perez with a pitch. Perez motioned to Byrd and both benches emptied but there there were no physical altercations.

    A few minutes later, the stadium went dark. The city-wide outage was caused by an equipment failure at a Georgia Power substation, which was overloaded by high demand due to the hot weather.

    When the lights came back on and play resumed, Perez was called out for interference on a grounder by Smoltz.

    Following the double play, Cox ran onto the field and argued with second-base umpire Larry Poncino, who then gave the manager his eighth ejection of the season.

    With the Braves trailing 4-0 in the top of the fourth, Smoltz was ejected by plate umpire Jerry Meals after hitting Alex Arias with a pitch. Smoltz charged toward Meals, who didn't give the pitcher a warning before ejecting him.

    "What happened to me personally is a joke," Smoltz said. "An umpire has no business making that call without a warning. He took the ball game in his hands and that's a joke. No warning, no nothing. That guy had no business making that call."

    Meals was not available for comment.

    Russ Springer replaced Smoltz and two batters later, Byrd came to the plate with Arias on first and two outs. Byrd apologized to Perez for hitting him the previous inning, but the catcher attacked him anyway.

    "It surprised me," Byrd said. "Apologies obviously weren't going to work this time."

    Rico Brogna went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer for the Phillies, who trail the Mets by 4 ½ games.

    Bobby Abreu also had three hits for the Phillies, raising his average to .341. Abreu, who had four hits against Florida on Thursday, extended his streak of reaching base to seven by doubling in the first, tripling in the third and singling in the fifth.

    The streak ended when he struck out in the seventh

    Byrd (12-6) won for the first time since July 3, holding the Braves to three hits and one run. Smoltz (8-4) lasted only 3 2-3 innings, giving up four runs and five hits.

    Smoltz said he's not worried about the Braves dropping out of first place.

    "It's not that big a deal," he said. "We haven't been playing that good. It's not much to worry about."

    Piladelphia took a 3-0 lead in the second on Mike Lieberthal's RBI double and Marlon Anderson's two-run homer.

    The Phillies added two runs in the eighth on solo homers by Rolen and Lieberthal. The homer was Lieberthal's career-high 21st of the season.

    The Braves scored on Ryan Klesko's RBI single in the fourth and Bret Boone's homer in the ninth.

    Notes:

  • The Mets moved into sole possession of first place for the first time since April 23. Also, this is the latest point in any season that both New York teams have been in first. The Yankees lead the AL East.
  • Philadelphia is 11 games over .500 for the first time since July 8, 1995.
  • Brian Jordan's fourth-inning double for Atlanta ended an 0-for-18 skid. Jordan missed the previous four games with a pinched nerve in his neck.
  • Smoltz made his second straight start after coming off the 15-day disabled list. The right-hander hasn't won since June 18, a five-start span that includes three no-decisions and two losses.
  • Rolen has 11 homers and 24 RBIs in his last 19 games. His home run total in July is the most by a Phillie in any month since Mike Schmidt hit 12 in July 1982.

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

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