Originally created 05/19/00

Furcal scores winning run for Braves



ATLANTA -- The Braves scored two runs on a ground ball to second here Thursday against the San Francisco Giants. That might be surprising until you realize who was involved.

Rafael Furcal, of course.

The speedy -- and daring -- little rookie did it again to the San Francisco Giants scoring the winning run in the sixth inning when he shouldn't have as the Braves won 3-2, their sixth victory in a row.

Greg Maddux (5-1) won his first game since his catcher Eddie Perez went down for the season with a torn rotator cuff, and reliever John Rocker snapped out of his funk with a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth for his 10th save.

Rocker must have been relieved to finish strong because he stuck around in the clubhouse to share his thoughts with the media.

But a bigger hero than Maddux or Rocker was Furcal, the hiccup-quick shortstop, who is hitting .320 in 33 games. He scored on a sacrifice fly -- to first base -- in Wednesday's 5-4 win over the Giants and then, with the Braves down 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth Thursday he ruined the Giants again.

The bases were loaded with none out and Furcal, who reached on a bunt single, was on second. Maddux came up and grounded a ball toward second baseman Jeff Kent playing in on the grass.

Kent fielded the ball and waited to tag Javier Lopez in the baseline and start a double play. Lopez alertly stopped forcing Kent to throw to first to get Maddux while Trenidad Hubbard scored to tie the game at 2-2.

The Giants then had Lopez in a rundown between first and second. Snow chased Lopez toward second, looked at Furcal to frreeze him, then looked away to throw to shortstop Rich Aurilia to get Lopez.

"When he looked away I took off," Furcal said. "He took his eye off me. You have to try and score on that."

Furcal slid across the plate with the winning run to easily beat the throw from Aurilia.

"I don't think I've ever seen that before," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "I can't remember seeing two runs score like that on one play."

Dusty Baker, the Giants manager, has seen enough of Furcal for the series and the season.

"His speed has cost us at least one run in every game," Baker said. "He's more than fast. In two steps he's full speed. That makes him different than someone who is just fast."

Maddux gets a share of the credit for sending San Francisco to its sixth straight loss. He pitched seven innings and gave up six hits and struck out six.

The Giants hit just two balls hard off Maddux: Jeff Kent's homer in the first and Marvin Bernard's RBI double in the third. Kent had been hitting .186 with no homers and 11 strikeouts in 43 at bats against Maddux before his first-pitch homer.

Maddux is 10-0 at home against the Giants since he joined the Braves.

Mike Remlinger pitched a scoreless eighth before the 3-2 lead was handed over to Rocker, who has looked shaky in four of his previous six outings (10 hits, eight walks, eight earned runs). The left-hander gave up two runs and two walks Tuesday night and was left in the bullpen Wednesday night in the ninth inning as Rudy Seanez saved a 5-4 victory.

Rocker, however, looked like a closer the Braves could trust again. He got ahead of Bobby Estalella 1-2, and then struck him out with an inside fastball. Rocker worked ahead of Calvin Murray 1-2 and finished him off with a strike out. Bill Mueller grounded out to third to end the game.

"The thing I wanted to do today was keep my head out of my (butt), which I haven't been doing for the last week or two," said Rocker, who hasn't spoken at length to the media this season after a game. "I got ahead for a change. It's a lot easier to pitch 0-2, 1-2 than 2-0.

"Everything feels the same. My strike zone was a little bit better today. I just made a little extra effort to concentrate early in the count."