Originally created 07/04/97

Braves romp 15-2 against Expos



MONTREAL - If John Smoltz appeared a bit dazed following Thursday night's game, he could be forgiven.

The worst-supported member of the Atlanta Braves rotation, he was accustomed to working with a skinny run or two, not feasting from a smorgasbord.

Little wonder, then, that he wrapped up his first half with a smile on his face.

Smoltz had to work only five innings as the Braves remained perfect against the Montreal Expos by matching their season-high run total in a 15-2 romp in front of 18,064 fans at Olympic Stadium.

"There wasn't much hitting for three days in New York," manager Bobby Cox said. "It was just pitch, pitch, pitch. Tonight it was hit, hit, hit."

The hitting spread like a brush fire throughout the lineup. Andruw Jones had a pair of hits and drove in four runs, Ryan Klesko had three hits and three RBI, Javy Lopez had three hits and drove in a pair of runs and Chipper Jones had two hits, two RBI and scored three runs.

"I wish we could have saved a few for tomorrow," Jones said. "But it was good to have a game like this. The next three days, I'm sure, will be quite different."

In the final three games before the All-Star break, the Braves will face a trio of the league's best pitchers in Carlos Perez, Pedro Martinez and Jeff Juden.

Jim Bullinger (5-8) isn't in their class. Montreal's starter lasted just 3 1/3 innings and was shelled for six hits and eight runs, then the bullpen wobbled through four more innings.

A lineup that produced only five runs in three games in the Bronx, pounded out 19 hits and scored nine runs in the fourth inning against a club that entered the game figuring they could sweep the Braves.

Said outfielder Henry Rodriguez in Thursday's Montreal Gazette: "The way we're playing right now, we could win four of four or maybe three of four."

In the fourth inning, the Braves sent 15 men to the plate and collected eight hits and three walks. Everyone got into the act. Andruw Jones and Lopez came to the plate twice and combined for five RBI, including hitting home runs on consecutive pitches, Klesko had a single and a double and scored twice, and Chipper Jones drove in a pair of runs with a double.

The poor Expos, fresh off winning two of three from the Blue Jays and owners of the league's fourth-best record, looked a little shellshocked coming off the field. The loss was their fifth straight against the Braves this season, including three at Olympic Stadium.

"Tough day at the office," Expos manager Felipe Alou said. "After playing 13 innings last night in Toronto, we were short in the bullpen."

It was a night of heavy-duty offense as the Braves led 15-0 after five innings and pulled many of their regulars early. By the fifth, every starter had scored a run and everyone, with the exception of Mark Lemke, had at least one hit.

It was all a bit overwhelming for Smoltz, who entered the game averaging 4.3 runs of support. He has dominated the Expos in recent years, going 5-0 against them since May 1994, and owns a career 8-3 record in Montreal. In five shutout innings, he yielded four hits and struck out three.

"A game like this is very enjoyable, I'm not going to lie," Smoltz said.

The right-hander, 14-4 with a 3.16 ERA at the All-Star break last year, is 8-7 with a 2.92 ERA and feeling he's pitched better this year.

"It's hard to believe I've had a great first half considering the record," Smoltz said. "A lot was expected of me. The bottom line is I pitched a ton of quality innings."

On this night, he got a ton of support.