Originally created 05/18/99

Late rally lifts Braves



ATLANTA -- In the uncharacteristically turbulent world of Atlanta Braves pitching on Monday, John Smoltz had his elbow drained and Kevin Millwood re-ceived a shot in the arm.

The Braves answered the so-bering news that Smoltz's elbow had relegated him to the disabled list for the third time in two years by paying Monday's starter the best kind of homage. Replaced by a pinch hitter in what would be a decisive rally in the seventh inning, fourth starter Kevin Millwood watched Walt Weiss' two-out line drive score both of Atlanta's runs in a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates before 30,673 fans at Turner Field.

The evening was a reminder that for the Braves, with or without the health of Smoltz's elbow, the arm bone is connected to the win column.

"From now on, it does put a little more pressure on me," Millwood said. "I can't pitch a John Smoltz-type game every time, but I can keep us close. I've given us a chance to win almost every time lately, and my goal this year is just to give us a chance to win."

John Rocker worked a perfect ninth for his fifth save, and the Braves opened a seven-game homestand with a victory after also winning Sunday in Chicago to close a 3-6 road trip. The homestand started with the news that Smoltz will miss three starts as his inflamed elbow had placed him on the 15-day disabled list.

Millwood allowed only four hits and was strong for his second consecutive home start and his fifth straight overall. In his previous four starts, Millwood received only one win and two no-decisions though he had yielded only seven earned runs in 27 innings. For a while the longest, it appeared the Braves on Monday would extend Millwood's miseries.

Trailing 1-0, the Braves ignited their seventh-inning rally on Andruw Jones' one-out walk against starter Todd Ritchie (2-3). It was Jones' aggressive baserunning that staged Weiss' dramatic game-winner. When Gerald Williams laced a liner just over the glove of shortstop Abraham Nunez, Jones

never slowed on his way to third. He beat left fielder Al Martin's weak throw without a play, and Williams advanced to second on the throw.

Pinch hitter Randall Simon, back from Class AAA Richmond by mere hours, replaced Millwood and popped out to Nunez on the first pitch. Up stepped Weiss, who stroked Ritchie's high fastball to the opposite field, well above the leaping Nunez.

Both runners scored easily, helping Atlanta's woeful batting average with runners in scoring position with two out. Before Weiss' single, the Braves were only 29-for-141, including two chances earlier in the game, in that situation this season.

Since replacing Otis Nixon at the top of the order on Sunday, Weiss has gone 3-for-7 with three runs batted in and a run scored.

"I try to get on base. That's it," Weiss said. "I'm nothing special offensively. All I can do offensively is be on base. Regardless of where I'm hitting, I just try to be out there when the big guys come up."

Millwood (3-3) allowed only two Pirates runners to reach second base during the first five innings before stumbling in the sixth. Actually, Millwood began showing signs of wear in the fifth. Ed Sprague opened with a single but eventually was stranded at second base when Martin used almost every inch of the park to fly out to Brian Jordan, backed against the wall in right field.

At first, it appeared Millwood would escape another threat in the sixth. Warren Morris led off with a single but was still at first base two outs later. Millwood made his first mistake of the night on a 3-and-2 pitch to one of Pittsburgh's hottest hitters, Jason Kendall. The catcher entered the game having raised his average from .261 to .341 by hitting .429 (27-for-63) over the previous 16 games. He had singled in the second inning but then notched his 12th run batted in with a double off the left center-field wall when Millwood left a fastball high and inside.

Ryan Klesko's stellar leaping catch of Turner Ward's line drive stranded Kendall at second. Millwood worked a perfect seventh, closing his night's work with his sixth strikeout.

"The bottom line was Millwood threw a great game and gave us a chance to win late," Weiss said. "That's the thing about the kind of pitching we have. Even when we're not hitting, you hang around and hang around and get a chance to win late."