Originally created 09/05/97

Braves open road trip with win



SAN DIEGO -- The pennant race in the East has moved West and taken Braves fans' sleep with it.

Long after Jay Leno and David Letterman sent their audiences home Thursday night, the Braves remained at work in a race that seems to tighten daily.

By the end, which came after 2 a.m. in the East, the Braves had given their fans a sleep aid.

Jeff Blauser's sacrifice fly in the 11th inning scored Chipper Jones with the go-ahead run as the Braves opened a six-game West Coast trip with an 8-7 victory over the San Diego Padres in front of a disappointing crowd of only 12,804 fans at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Braves pushed the winning run across the plate without a hit in the 11th. Padres reliever Tim Worrell (3-8) walked Jones and Fred McGriff to open the inning, then he issued a one-out walk to Javy Lopez to load the bases. Blauser, who had four hits and two RBI, followed by lifting a pitch into left field for his clubleading ninth sacrifice fly.

The win went to Mark Wohlers (5-5), who worked the final two innings without allowing a hit.

Atlanta's bullpen took over for starter Kevin Millwood in the fifth and offered shutout relief until the eighth. Alan Embree issued a leadoff walk to Tony Gwynn and pinch hitter Trey Beamon's twoout single against rookie reliever Mike Cather scored Gwynn with the tying run.

Making his sixth start, Millwood yielded four straight hits and three runs in the first inning, two unearned thanks to Lopez's error. He muffed McGriff's throw

on Mark Sweeney's chopper, turning a one-run inning into a disaster.

McGriff made Millwood work a little harder the next inning by booting Quilvio Veras' grounder, but the young right-hander recovered and got Tony Gwynn and Ken Caminiti to end the inning.

Millwood was in more trouble in the fourth and this time he didn't escape. His first mistake was yielding a hit to pitcher Pete Smith, a .100 hitter this season, then a two-out, three-run homer to Gwynn on a 3-2 pitch. It was Gwynn's 17th homer, his first since July 29, and the first home run Millwood has given up since being called up July 12.

San Diego's second three-run inning brought an end to Millwood's evening. He departed after four innings charged with eight hits and four earned runs.

A succession of relievers trotted from the bullpen to work the remaining five innings. Brad Clontz was first and he worked a scoreless fifth, then Chad Fox arrived to get two outs in the sixth, followed by Embree and Cather.

Smith, who spent seven years with the Braves, staggered through five innings and didn't fool anyone. Kenny Lofton's two-run single in the second inning chopped into San Diego's lead, then Ryan Klesko's two-run homer, his 21st, gave the Braves a brief 4-3 lead in the third.

In the fifth, McGriff sent a double against the right-center field wall and scored on Jeff Blauser's two-out single, drawing the Braves to within 5-4. Smith exited after five with a lead, but his performance convinced manager Bruce Bochy it was time to go to the bullpen.

On came Sean Bergman and his 5.61 ERA and the Braves jumped on him quickly. Andruw Jones, hitting in the No. 2 spot for the first time since mid-June, followed Lofton's single with his 16th homer deep into the left field stands, giving the Braves a 7-6 lead.