Originally created 07/11/98

Braves fall to Marlins



MIAMI -- It had been two weeks since any team in either league had figured out how to beat the Atlanta Braves.

That's 14 days of smiles in the clubhouse and a division lead that zoomed from single numbers to double digits.

It ended at the hands of an unlikely conqueror.

Florida left-hander Jesus Sanchez had not won since May 18 and his two most recent starts could accurately be termed disasters. Which makes his eight shutout innings Friday night all the more astonishing.

In his 15th major league start, the rookie stifled the league's most powerful lineup as the Marlins brought a swift end to the Braves' nine-game win streak with a 3-1 victory before a crowd of 26,018 fans at Pro Player Stadium.

"That kid is tough," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "He's better than his record indicates. He's going to win a lot of games as long as they score some runs for him."

The undeserving loser was Denny Neagle, who saw his shutout streak against the Marlins end at 22 innings when Dave Berg sent a two-out RBI single into right field in the seventh to score the game's first run.

Neagle, who angered the Marlins when he said he laughed at their lineup following his June 16 shutout, went seven innings and allowed only four hits, but took his third loss in his last four decisions.

"I'm not going to go for the razor blades, that's for sure," he said. "I made one bad pitch and he took advantage of it. On a night like that, that's all it took."

Said Florida left fielder Cliff Floyd, "He said what he said, but we didn't go out and try and kill him."

The two bullpens made the final two innings the evening's most interesting.

Rudy Seanez and John Rocker combined to yield a pair of walks, two hits and a run-scoring wild pitch in the eighth to give Florida a pair of insurance runs.

Antonio Alfonseca was equally bad, opening the ninth by walking Jones, then giving up a single to Andres Galarraga and a sacrifice fly to Javy Lopez. When he followed with a walk to Andruw Jones, Marlins manager Jim Leyland summoned left-hander Felix Heredia to face pinch hitter Michael Tucker.

It was a wise move. Tucker flied out and Tony Graffanino ended the game with a sharp grounder, leaving the Braves wondering what might have been if their relief corps had worked a scoreless inning.

If the Braves are looking toward Class AAA Richmond for some help, forget it. In one inning against Toledo Friday night, Mark Wohlers was charged with six hits, two walks, four wild pitches and seven earned runs, giving him a total of 14 earned runs allowed in 4 23 innings with Class AAA Richmond.

Sanchez didn't look like a pitcher who had not won in eight starts. He worked out of a pair of early jams, stranding three runners at third base in five innings, then didn't allow another man to reach scoring position until the eighth.

"He threw his changeup for strikes and had a good fastball," Galarraga said. "He pitched in and out and kept it low."

Sanchez (4-6) gave up Gerald Williams' bloop double in the first inning, then Neagle singled and reached third in the third inning, but was left there when Chipper Jones struck out.

Tony Graffanino singled with one out in the fifth, Neagle bunted him to second and a wild pitch allowed him third, but again Sanchez responded with an out. He got a soft fly from Walt Weiss and Graffanino became the third runner left in scoring position.

Sanchez, a 6-2 loser to the Braves on June 17 in Atlanta, had received a stern talking-to from Leyland regarding his pitch selection following his last two starts. He was relying too heavily on his fastball and, not surprisingly, hitters were zeroing in on him.

The rookie left-hander, who was in Class AA last year, had not made it through the fifth inning in either start and had allowed 10 earned runs. But it was a different pitcher the Braves faced. Sanchez showed off a slider and a changeup, in addition to a 93 m.p.h. fastball, and he zipped through Atlanta's lineup with relative ease.

"This team makes adjustments pretty good, but we couldn't get anything started against him," Chipper Jones said.

The Braves kept waiting for Sanchez to make a mistake and he never did.

"He's unbelievable the way he was getting everybody out with changeups," Lopez said. "Everybody was hitting pop flys. No doubt he was using it very good. That's why we couldn't hit it."

Atlanta -- 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 -- 1 6 0
Florida -- 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 x -- 3 6 0

LOB -- Atlanta 7, Florida 5. 2B -- GerWilliams (10), Graffanino (8). 3B -- Floyd (2). RBIs -- JLopez (65), Kotsay (33), Berg (10). SB -- Floyd (18). CS -- AJones (1). S -- Weiss, Neagle. SF -- JLopez. GIDP -- Floyd.

DP -- Atlanta 1 (Graffanino, Weiss and Galarraga).