Originally created 07/06/99

Braves escape Marlins

ATLANTA -- As a pitcher who has openly fretted over the possibility of returning to Class AAA, Atlanta Braves left-hander Odalis Perez on Monday didn't fare much better when AAA came to him.

And he wasn't even Atlanta's most maddening pitcher of the night.

The no-name Florida Marlins, whose teal green isn't close enough to the color of money, so harassed the diminutive Perez that his last pitch sailed several feet wide of a right-handed hitter -- from the left side of the mound. Perez's ineffective night closed with his receiving credit for his fifth walk three pitches after he left the game.

Atlanta's John Rocker also saw his outing end in wildness. His bases-loaded walk to Bruce Aven with two out in the top of the ninth allowed Florida to forge its third tie of the game. The Braves (51-32) finally put away the team with baseball's worst record (29-53) with a 6-5 victory on Gerald Williams' bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

"We managed somehow to hang on and win it," said manager Bobby Cox. "When you have a good record, you're going to win games in the late innings."

It was the Braves' 15th win in their last at-bat.

A Turner Field crowd of 37,506 -- some 5,000 fans smaller than the World Wrestling Federation crowd at the Georgia Dome -- cheered through the winning rally against Antonio Alfonseca. Bret Boone singled to left, Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan walked, and Williams singled to left, just beyond the glove of a diving Aven.

"I was actually looking for something hard over the plate so I could get it in the air -- just drive the ball in the outfield and make sure I stay out of the double play," Williams said. "I'm happy I was able to contribute."

Boone scored each of Atlanta's last three runs, each breaking a tie. His seventh-inning home run to left was his third home run in two games, but Rocker blew the advantage two innings later despite an 0-and-2 count on Aven. His collapse, which included two singles and two walks, strapped him with his second blown save in his last three chances and his fifth in 22 chances overall.

"John just had a tough ninth inning, but he's been so good for us all year. That's going to happen. You can't save them all," Boone said. "I'm swinging the bat good. I feel a lot better. I went through a tough stint, and I feel a lot better now."

Boone's 11th home run came on a 3-and-0 pitch and sustained a power surge spawned by his change in bat grip. Starting this past weekend, Boone has kept his top hand less closed, returning to the form he used to hit 24 home runs in Cincinnati last season.

Kevin McGlinchy, who mopped up Rocker's mess by popping up Kevin Millar, improved to 5-3.

Atlanta's Perez exited with two out in a wild top half of the sixth. He had just helped save a run when he took part in a rundown finished by center fielder Andruw Jones' throw from second base to catcher Eddie Perez, who tagged out Millar. But Perez stumbled while delivering a wild curveball to Lowell, allowing Preston Wilson to score for a 4-4 tie, and manager Bobby Cox immediately removed Perez though the count was 2-and-0.

Russ Springer entered, threw two balls among his first three pitches, and Perez was credited with the walk. Springer stranded Lowell at first and former Braves outfielder Danny Bautista at third by striking out Redmond.

"After I gave up the home run, I don't know, I think I just lost my concentration," Perez said.

In his five starts since his last win on June 8, Perez is 0-3 with two no-decisions and a 7.09 earned run average. Monday's outing represented a regression from his previous outing last Wednesday, when he allowed only two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings at Montreal.

Perez's teammates handed him a 3-0 lead with hits on three consecutive pitches from Florida knuckleballer Dennis Springer in the second inning. Ryan Klesko led off with a walk and was followed in succession by Andruw Jones' double, Randall Simon's hard single to center and Eddie Perez's hit-and-run single to right.

Florida responded by scoring in each of the middle three innings. Bruce Aven slapped a run-scoring double in the fourth, Lowell yanked a two-run home run to left in the fifth, and Wilson scored on the sixth-inning wild pitch.

Atlanta's Perez was done, further clouding the picture on Atlanta's starting pitching on the day the Braves announced John Smoltz is headed back to the disabled list for the fourth time in a season and a half.


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