Originally created 05/17/99

Braves whip Cubs with homers



CHICAGO -- It had been so long since Atlanta's lineup produced any measurable offense, smelling salts were made available in the dugout for anyone who grew faint at the sight of four home runs Sunday afternoon.

Wrigley Field isn't nicknamed "The Friendly Confines" for nothing.

After two days of pitcher-friendly breezes, the winds off Lake Michigan shifted north and any horsehide that took flight was carried beyond the thickening ivy. But it was left up to a pair of bullpens to decide who would take advantage of Mother Nature's whims.

On a day when home runs ruled and hitters drooled, Bret Boone ignited a struggling lineup as the Braves ended a disappointing road trip with a late flurry of offense, knocking aside the Cubs 8-5 before 39,915 broom-wielding fans.

"This field can play real small or real big," said Boone, who had a pair of home runs and three RBI. "It was nice to see us come back because we haven't done that lately."

After going 8-3 on their first road trip, the Braves finished this three-city tour with a 3-6 mark. Sunday's win ended a seven-game skid at Wrigley, their longest here since dropping nine in a row in 1977.

Atlanta's offense had produced only two runs in its last three games, so Sunday's outpouring sent a sigh of relief rippling through a downcast lineup. Besides Boone, who capped off his best performance of the season with an RBI double in the ninth inning, Brian Jordan hit his ninth homer and drove in two runs, Andruw Jones had a pair of hits, including his seventh home run, and Gerald Williams drove in a run and scored one.

Most of the damage came against the Cubs' bullpen, which inherited a 5-3 lead from starter Kyle Farnsworth. Boone led the eighth with a wind-aided drive that carried into the left-center field bleachers against Rodney Myers (2-1), then Jordan launched a two-run homer that gave the Braves a lead.

"You hit one up in the air and it will go out," Jordan said. "I don't think I hit mine all that good."

Walt Weiss' run-scoring single and Boone's third hit of the afternoon sent closer Rod Beck to the showers in the ninth, a cascading chorus of boos trailing him into the dugout.

"This is not a crucial part of the season," said John Smoltz, who worked six innings and allowed five runs in his worst start of the season. "But it was a part of the season when the offense was struggling. This was a big win for us."

The afternoon began pleasantly with Boone's seventh homer, a solo shot against Farnsworth in the first inning, giving the Braves their first lead since the 12th inning Tuesday in San Francisco, a stretch of 27 innings. Williams' RBI single in the second was even more representative of Atlanta's offensive woes because it delivered the club's first two-run lead in 38 innings and snapped a collective 0-for-24 streak with runners in scoring position.

With a lead in hand, Smoltz managed to avert disaster in the first inning, refusing to allow the Cubs a run, the first time in six games a Braves starter had not yielded a first-inning run. He finally did in the fourth when Mark Grace launched a home run into the left-center field stands, the sixth homer he's given up to the Cubs first baseman in 65 career at-bats.

Four more runs followed in the sixth, two coming on Henry Rodriguez's double against the center field ivy and another pair on ex-Brave Tyler Houston's fourth home run, which rode the jet stream out to left field. Houston, traded for minor league pitcher Ismael Villegas in 1996, is hitting .440 with 14 RBI as a part-time third baseman and backup catcher.

"I'm a fly ball pitcher," Smoltz said. "There's nothing I can do about that. I can't all of a sudden become a ground ball pitcher."

Atlanta's relievers offered the locals a sharp contrast in bullpens. Kevin McGlinchy (2-0), Rudy Seanez and John Rocker retired nine straight hitters over the final three innings, with Rocker coming away with his fourth save.

Chicago's relievers? They have a 6.30 ERA and are 9-for-17 in save situations this season.

"It was good to end the trip on a positive note," Jordan said. "I think we'll regroup at home."

Atlanta -- 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 2 -- 8 11 2
Chicago -- 0 0 0 1 0 4 0 0 0 -- 5 8 1

E -- Weiss (7), Smoltz (1), Farnsworth (1). LOB -- Atlanta 6, Chicago 4. 2B -- BBoone (8), AJones (5), LJohnson (5), HRodriguez (7). HR -- BJordan (9) off Myers; AJones (7) off Farnsworth; Houston (4) off Smoltz; MaGrace (5) off Smoltz; BBoone 2 (8) off Myers, Farnsworth. RBIs -- Weiss (12), BBoone 3 (23), BJordan 2 (30), AJones (28), GWilliams (12), MaGrace (19), HRodriguez 2 (14), Houston 2 (14). SB -- GWilliams (2), LJohnson (7). CS -- AJones (4). S -- Weiss. GIDP -- AJones.

Runners left in scoring position -- Atlanta 3 (BBoone, BJordan, JLopez); Chicago 2 (MaGrace, Santiago).

Runners moved up -- CJones, Sosa.

DP -- Chicago 1 (Houston, Morandini and MaGrace).