Originally created 04/28/00

A perfect 10: Braves' streak lives



ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones swears the Atlanta Braves will lose again. We'll just have to take his word for it.

The Braves are a rock rolling downhill these days as they rumbled past the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-3 Thursday for their 10th consecutive victory.

The win gave Atlanta a sweep of the nine-game homestand, the longest homestand sweep in franchise history. The last team to sweep a nine-game homestand in the majors was the Dodgers in 1993. The victory was the 11th straight at home for the Braves, which ties a franchise record set in 1966 for consecutive victories at home.

Starting pitcher Terry Mulholland (3-2) won his third straight. The left-hander, who has a 1.50 ERA over his past three starts, pitched seven innings and allowed just one run Thursday.

Chipper Jones provided the most support on offense with a booming three-run homer while John Rocker provided the most tension with another eventful ninth inning. Rocker loaded the bases with a three-run lead and then struck out the side.

The Braves now head to the West Coast for a six-game road trip riding a wave of confidence.

Bobby Bonilla has played on some better-than-average teams during his 14-plus seasons in the big leagues -- the Pittsburgh teams that challenged the Braves in the early '90s; the world champion Florida Marlins in 1997; the New York Mets team that made a run at the Braves in the NL East in 1999.

But Bonilla never has had the secure feeling with those teams he has with these Atlanta Braves. It's taken him less than a month in a Braves uniform to sense it's a little different in Atlanta.

"You go on the field with this team, and you expect to win, that you're always going to be in the game," Bonilla said. "I get that feeling here moreso than any place I've been."

But for five innings Thursday it looked like the Braves might be ready to give up the streak. They had 11 baserunners and scored just two runs. Inning after inning they allowed Dodgers starter Chan Ho Park, who was struggling with his control, to squirm off the hook. Eventually, you figured the Braves might pay for not cashing in.

But Mulholland made sure Atlanta had all the time it needed with a shutout over six innings. Once known as a pitcher who tried to dominate the inside half of the plate, the southpaw has started to work down and away.

"It's a pretty effective pitch when I keep it on the outer half of the plate," Mulholland said. "I had a little bit of a reputation over the years for pitching inside to a lot of guys, but that pitch has helped me quite a bit in terms of opening up the outside and getting some ground balls. I've gone to it more the last three games than I did probably my first two starts and it's probably a big reason why I'm having the success I am."

Mulholland didn't allow a runner past first base for five innings. Finally, he ran out of gas in the top of the seventh when Kevin Elster ripped a liner into the left-field seats, and other Dodgers started to tee off. By that time, however, the Braves were in command 6-0 thanks to Chipper Jones' homer in the bottom of the sixth.

Park, who was down 2-0, walked Quilvio Veras and Andruw Jones to open the sixth. The right-hander then fell behind Chipper Jones with a ball and no strikes. The Braves' No. 3 hitter eagerly awaited the next serving because he knew Park had to come in with a strike.

Indeed, the pitch was all meat. The ball landed in the right-field bleachers, a blast estimated at 444 feet, tied for the second-longest home run ever in Turner Field with Sammy Sosa and five feet behind the record held by former Brave Ryan Klesko.

"It's one of those you'll always remember," he said.

But the Braves bullpen almost made it a day to forget. Kerry Lightenberg came on in the eighth and gave up a couple of runs to make it a 6-3 game. Then Rocker showed up for the save in the ninth and yielded a hit to Shawn Green and two walks to load the bases.

That prompted a mound meeting between Rocker and pitching coach Leo Mazzone and some reflection from Mulholland.

"When I was with the Phillies and Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams was the closer, (Phillies pitching coach) Johnny Podres and I had a deal when Mitch came into the ballgame where we looked at each other with open palms and said, `Hey it's out of our hands now,"' Mulholland said.

Before things got too wild for the Braves, Mazzone had a few words with Wild Thing Rocker.

"I told him to face the next three hitters like there is nobody on base," Mazzone said. "He was running away with his breaking ball ... running away with his arm. He slowed it down just a tad and made the adjustments he had to make."

Rocker, who relied more on his breaking ball his fastball, then struck out three batters to preserve the Braves' winning streak.