Originally created 07/20/98

Braves hammer Brewers, 11-6



ATLANTA -- If the Atlanta Braves had known how much they would enjoy realignment, they would have favored the addition of the Milwaukee Brewers to the National League years ago.

The way things turned out, they have finally found an American League team they can dominate.

OK, beating Bud's team isn't quite as satisfying as drubbing George's team in the World Series, but for the moment, Atlanta will take it.

It was a mostly enjoyable weekend for the Braves, who wrapped up their season series against the Brewers by taking three of four, including Sunday's afternoon's 11-6 victory before 44,598 fans at Turner Field, their seventh win in nine games against the league's newest member.

"We pretty much stunk up the place," Brewers manager Phil Garner said. "They played down to our level and we underplayed that. They didn't play to a division leader standard. They played down to what we did."

During the four games, the two teams combined for 12 errors, good for five unearned runs. Nine errors belonged to the Braves, boosting their season total to 61 and dropping them from the ranks of the league's best defensive teams.

It wasn't a good day to be a Brewers pitcher. Jeff Juden (7-9) lasted only three innings and was pounded for five runs and reliever Doug Jones went two innings and yielded six more.

Second baseman Tony Graffanino, who entered with eight RBI in 142 at-bats, collected a career-high four hits and two RBI, including his first homer since June 5. The middle infield combination of Graffanino and Walt Weiss (two hits, three walks) combined to reach base 10 times and scored five runs.

"I just want to be part of the offense," said Graffanino, who was mired in a 8-for-56 slump and made an adjustment in his stance. "I don't feel I'm a .230 hitter. Right now I need all the hits I can get."

There was production throughout the lineup, but one of the biggest performances belonged to right fielder Curtis Pride, who took over for the slumping Michael Tucker and hit his second homer, drove in two runs and scored four times.

"I've demonstrated what I'm capable of doing when I'm given an opportunity to play," Pride said. "I treated today like any other game. I came to the park ready to play."

Eight of Atlanta's 13 hits belonged to Graffanino, Weiss and Javy Lopez, who had a single and double and drove in a run. Ryan Klesko, who had three hits in his last 17 at-bats, reached base three times and had a pair of RBI.

"That was more typical of a Sunday game six or seven years ago," manager Bobby Cox said. "There were some errors, some sun balls, a little bit of everything."

John Smoltz (8-2) lasted seven innings in a game that started with the mercury at 93 and continued to rise. In his sixth start since returning from the disabled list, he gave up seven hits and two earned runs, didn't issue a walk and struck out six.

"It's never easy, especially when it's a 96- or 97-degree day," he said. "I was trying to get outs as quickly as possible. I'll take (11 runs). It's not something a pitcher ever gets mad about."

Atlanta's bullpen offered another inconsistent performance as Dennis Martinez could get only one out in the eighth and was charged with four hits and three runs. John Rocker struck out the only hitter he faced, then Kerry Ligtenberg survived a scary moment in the ninth.

Fernando Vina sent a line drive back at him that struck his right hand and for a moment Cox feared he had suffered a serious injury. But after assistant trainer Jeff Porter examined him, Ligtenberg returned to the mound and finished the game.

Afterward, Ligtenberg indicated the ball struck the meat of his hand and he felt he would be able to pitch today.

"Hopefully we dodged a bullet on Ligtenberg," Cox said. "Maybe it's just going to be sore as the dickens tomorrow."

That was the good news. The bad news was the Brewers were leaving town.

Milwaukee -- 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 3 0 -- 6
Atlanta -- 1 1 1 2 3 3 0 0 x -- 11

E -- Hamelin (2), Burnitz (6), ChJones (9), Galarraga (10), EddPerez (2). DP -- Milwaukee 1, Atlanta 3. LOB -- Milwaukee 6, Atlanta 11. 2B -- JLopez (14). 3B -- Hughes (2), Weiss (2). HR -- Burnitz (21), Pride (2), Graffanino (3). SB -- ChJones (8), JLopez (2). CS -- Hughes (2). S -- Smoltz. SF -- Hamelin, ChJones.