Originally created 04/10/00

Old, young take over for Braves



ATLANTA -- Don't let anyone tell you that Bobby Bonilla is too old to play this game or that Rafael Furcal is too young.

Any questions concerning the pair, who are on opposite ends of their baseball careers, were answered in full Sunday afternoon.

The local chapter of Geezers R Us (Bonilla and Wally Joyner) and the Kid (Furcal) sent the Braves winging toward the Windy City with another series win, this one courtesy of a 9-3 pasting of the Giants before a gathering of 32,654 at Turner Field.

"At my age, the only thing that matters is shaking hands after the game," said Bonilla, who was 3-for-3 with three RBI and gave the Braves the lead for good with a solo homer in the fifth. "If we're shaking hands, it's been a good day."

The Braves, who trailed briefly 2-1 in the third, took two of three from the Rockies and Giants during the season-opening homestand and headed to Chicago with Brian Jordan's absence barely causing a ripple in the lineup. That's largely due to Furcal, the 19-year-old wonder child who has six hits, three steals and five runs in five games.

Atop the lineup again Sunday, he reached base four times, scored three runs, stole two bases and is hitting .429.

"That little Pee Wee Herman kid kicked our butts," Giants left fielder Barry Bonds said.

Furcal, who had four hits and scored four runs in three games against San Francisco, is making the jump from Class A to the majors look as easy as hopping a bus from Myrtle Beach to Atlanta. He's handled the pitching, and his defense has been rock-solid. He made all the plays Sunday, despite a cloudless, sun-splashed afternoon that normally gives fielders fits.

"I came in ready after playing winter ball in the Dominican," Furcal said. "There haven't been too many surprises."

Bonilla, who signed his first pro contract before Furcal's first birthday in 1981, is displaying the same swing that produced 28 homers and 116 RBI for the Orioles in 1996. Coming off a season in which he hit .160 with the Mets and was promised a 24-year, $29.8 million deal starting in 2011 if he'd leave town, he's dropped his high leg kick, shed 20 pounds and is hitting .429 with five RBI in five games.

Between them, Geezers R Us

produced four hits and five RBI. Bonilla followed his second home run with a two-run single in the sixth and Joyner, giving first baseman Andres Galarraga a day off, knocked in a pair of runs with a double in the seventh.

"It's nice for Bobby (Cox) to have the weapons," Bonilla said. "The good thing is Brian Jordan is hurt and there's been no dropoff."

The Giants scored twice against Tom Glavine in the third inning, both runs scoring with two outs. Russ Davis, platooning with Bill Mueller at third base, singled in one run, and Jeff Kent, who finished with a pair of RBI, singled home another run.

The Braves took advantage of four walks to score the tying run in the third, but they could have had more. Furcal, back at shortstop after playing second Saturday night, walked and stole second, then swiped home on a double-steal with Chipper Jones. Javy Lopez, off to a sizzling .389 start, doused a bases-loaded rally with a roller that forced Jones at the plate, and Andruw Jones bounced out to shortstop Rich Aurilia.

Furcal, who tripled in the fourth and singled in the sixth, scored his third run in the seventh on Joyner's double. By that time the Giants were warming up their bus and figuring out the flying time to the West Coast.

"That guy is every bit as exciting as Andruw Jones," said Chipper Jones, referring to Furcal. "Raffy isn't going to hit a lot of home runs, but he makes things happen. He can create havoc and put a lot of pressure on the defense. He's a tremendous asset to have and he's only going to get better."

Now there's a thought that's causing some sleepless nights for pitchers around the National League.

Reach

Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com