Originally created 06/30/00

Big Cat's attack lifts Braves

NEW YORK -- If John Rocker was hopeful that New Yorkers would forgive and forget, the howling masses had one word for him Thursday night -- fuhgettaboutit.

While the mere sight of the embattled reliever was enough to set the blood boiling among the Shea Stadium faithful, John Burkett settled into the eye of the hurricane and delivered another impressive performance.

Amid all the surprises on Day 1 of Rocker's "I Am Not Evil" tour of the Big Apple, there was the constant of Burkett and the Big Cat, Andres Galarraga, whose gift to the well-behaved crowd of 46,998 was a home run and four RBI as the Braves ended the New York Mets' seven-game streak with a 6-4 win.

"We were kind of observing from afar, giving everybody a chance to throw what they wanted and yell what they wanted," said third baseman Chipper Jones, who stayed in the dugout as Rocker sprinted to the mound in the eighth. "But it was strange. I didn't get any change thrown at third base, though I did see a golf ball."

Burkett, who was told he'd replace the bed-ridden Greg Maddux when he reached the clubhouse Thursday afternoon, got plenty of help from the bullpen, including Rocker, who brought the jeering crowd to its feet in his new role as setup man.

Rookie Jason Marquis worked two scoreless innings in relief of Burkett, Rocker pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Kerry Ligtenberg got three outs in the ninth for his sixth save.

"That was pretty creative of Bobby (Cox) to bring Rocker in in the eighth and Kerry in the ninth," Burkett said.

Said Cox, "The only reason I used Rocker in the eighth was (left-handed-hitting) Robin Ventura. We've got to mix and match right now because we only have nine pitchers."

Galarraga, hitting only .233 this month, reached a milestone in the first. His 2,000th hit was a sinking line drive that center fielder Jay Payton stabbed at and missed, the ball rolling to the wall, allowing Galarraga to reach third with the 31st triple of his career as Jones sped home with the first run.

Galarraga's 2,001st hit was his 19th homer over the right field wall against Mets starter Rick Reed (4-2) in the third, a two-out, 414-foot shot that followed singles by the Jones' boys, Andruw and Chipper.

Pat Mahomes, Reed's successor, had a rough fifth, though catcher Mike Piazza's forgetfulness didn't help matters. Galarraga's strikeout with runners on first and second was the second out, but Piazza, thinking there were three down, headed for the dugout, allowing Andruw Jones to scamper to third.

Brian Jordan followed with a run-scoring single to make it 5-2, but Javy Lopez, given a bases-loaded opportunity to break the game open, popped up.

Mahomes was in more trouble in the sixth, thanks to Walt Weiss' leadoff triple. Burkett, who last drew a walk in 1995, accepted Mahomes' largess and Quilvio Veras, hitless in the two games in Montreal, bounced a run-scoring single over first baseman Todd Zeile's leap.

That was all the support Burkett needed. The veteran right-hander, who has won six of his seven starts, was victimized by Weiss in the third. Weiss' bobble of Melvin Mora's grounder opened the door and his late throw on Edgardo Alfonzo's roller loaded the bases for Piazza, whose two-run single cut the lead in half and gave him at least one RBI in a club-record 12 straight games. The last National League hitter to have an RBI in 12 straight games was the Cardinals' Ripper Collins in 1935.

Burkett (6-3) should have lasted seven, but he departed under fire in the sixth, largely due to more bad defense. Veras misplayed Robin Ventura's double-play ball, allowing runners to reach first and third with no out, and Zeile's single made it 6-3 and chased Burkett.

On came Marquis and after giving up Benny Agbayani's run-scoring single, he coaxed pinch hitter Lenny Harris to tap into an inning-ending double play.

"I was a little excited at first, I needed to keep my composure," Marquis said. "Getting this first game was important, especially with all the extracurricular stuff going on."


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