Originally created 04/12/98

Braves beaten by Phils



PHILADELPHIA -- It's a tossup between several adjectives to properly describe the Atlanta Braves offense.

Woeful? Dreadful?

Something stronger, perhaps? Abominable? Repulsive?

It's a perennial problem, this lack of scoring, but never more glaring than Saturday night at Veterans Stadium.

Tyler Green, who's no Curt Schilling, nevertheless did a fair imitation of Philadelphia's ace. Of course, he was working against a lineup that couldn't hit water from a rowboat at the moment, so an asterisk should be placed next to his performance.

Green, 10-13 against the rest of the league, but 3-0 against the Braves, pitched five shutout innings and the Phillies made it two in a row with a 6-5 victory in front of a crowd of 17,676 fans.

"We waited a little long, but we finally scored some runs," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "That's the only good thing about tonight's game. The last inning."

Andres Galarraga, whose throwing error in the first inning allowed two runs to score, made the game close with a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth against closer Ricky Bottalico. But it was too little, too late. Bottalico closed it out after Ryan Klesko's single by forcing a ground ball from Javier Lopez.

"We need that kind of offense," Galarraga said. "Hopefully that will be a positive for tomorrow."

How woeful were Atlanta's bats? Lopez's RBI single in the sixth inning snapped a 19-inning scoreless streak and ended Philadelphia's dominance against the Braves at 22 shutout innings. More telling, the Braves have not held a lead against the Phils in the last 27 innings.

The excitement -- and much of Friday night's crowd -- was missing from this game. Also missing was the pinpoint command of Greg Maddux and Schilling, who combined for one walk in the Phillies' 1-0 victory 24 hours earlier. Green (1-0) and Dennis Martinez combined to issue five walks in the first three innings alone, hardly the recipe for another two-hour game.

Martinez (1-1), making his first start since last May 21, might have survived longer than 4 2/3 innings if the defense had made some plays. Galarraga threw Rico Brogna's double-play grounder into left field in the first inning for two runs, then second baseman Tony Graffanino couldn't backhand Brogna's grounder cleanly in the fourth and it led to two more runs.

Said Cox, "Martinez deserved a better fate. His line isn't so hot, but he pitched better than that. We didn't make any plays behind him. (If we had), he probably comes out of the game with no runs."

Martinez, who has made it clear he wants to remain in the rotation when John Smoltz returns this week, was charged with seven hits, three walks and four earned runs, boosting his ERA to an unsightly 7.46.

"I thought I threw the ball well," he said. "I had good velocity, but I left a couple of balls up in the strike zone for them to hit. For the first time, I look at it as a positive one."

A quartet of Atlanta relievers offered solid relief with 3 1/3 one-run innings, but the sluggish offense waited too long to make the game interesting. Green did everything he could to keep the Braves close, but they refused to cooperate. He departed in the sixth, charged with six walks and four hits, but just one run.

Atlanta's offense entered the game with a .238 batting average, the major league's fifth-worst, and four of the eight hitters in the lineup owned sub-.200 averages. If not for Galarraga's home run, the Braves would have scored three runs or less for the fifth time in 10 games.

"We've just got a bunch of guys who haven't swung the bats well," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Once Andruw Jones and Ryan Klesko and Michael Tucker get a couple of hits, they'll start feeling more comfortable."