Originally created 09/12/98

Braves dominate hapless Marlins



ATLANTA -- The arrival of the Fish should have been greeted with a chorus of cheers and a police escort from the airport.

The price tag for these Florida Marlins may have been placed at $150 million, but they're invaluable to a club desperate to find somebody to bully.

Starting a stretch of 12 games against the dredges of the NL East and West, Atlanta kicked off its next-to-last homestand Friday night with a dominant display of pitching and power against baseball's worst team.

John Smoltz boosted his record to 10-1 since the All-Star break with an eight-strikeout performance and Gerald Williams hit a pair of homers and drove in a career-high five runs as the Braves put consecutive wins together for the first time in 17 days with an 8-2 victory over the Marlins before a crowd of 47,235 fans at Turner Field.

The win was Atlanta's 94th; the loss was Florida's 100th. Last year's World Series champions have dropped 44 of their last 56 games, including their last nine straight on the road.

Smoltz's 15th win gave the Braves a quartet of 15-game winners for the second time this century and lowered their magic number

to three for clinching a seventh consecutive division title.

The first hit against Marlins left-hander Kirt Ojala was Tony Graffanino's third-inning single. The second hit was Williams' grand slam about five minutes later. Ojala buried himself with walks to Ryan Klesko and Walt Weiss preceding Williams' second career slam, which was also the 100th grand slam in Atlanta history.

Williams, hitting .344 against left-handers, lofted an 0-1 slider from Ojala down the left field line, tucking it just inside the foul pole for his sixth homer.

Ojala (2-5) yielded another run in the fourth, this one coming with two outs. Graffanino, hitting .133 in his last 10 games, doubled over right fielder Mark Kotsay's head and Smoltz followed with a single for his fifth RBI.

With reliever Eric Ludwick on in the fifth, Williams launched his second home run, giving him just the second two-homer game of his career, while boosting the lead to 6-1.

That was game, set and match for the Marlins, who are 5-15 in their last 20 games away from home.

Smoltz (15-3), 11-2 in 16 starts since coming off the disabled list June 20, dominated a Florida lineup that ranks as the league's third-worst with a .250 batting average. The only trouble he encountered before the fifth came when he issued consecutive walks in the second, then got the next three hitters without the ball leaving the infield.

Atlanta's right-hander took a no-hitter into the fifth before Dave Berg's single spoiled his perfection. Moments later Todd Dunwoody also spoiled his shutout with an RBI hit, but Smoltz left the bases loaded by retiring Edgar Renteria and Kotsay.

Florida pushed another run across the plate in the sixth when Luis Castillo reached out and poked a pitch just inside first base and beyond Andres Galarraga's grasp, scoring Gregg Zaun from second base.