Originally created 09/17/00

Braves notebook



PHOENIX -- Mild-mannered Walt Weiss was ready to chop Randy Johnson in half following a stare-down in the fifth inning of Friday night's 2-1 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Arizona's left-hander, known for his intensity on the mound, is equally well-known for his habit of staring at hitters following a strikeout or a hit. He did it to Weiss, who was called out on strikes, and the Braves shortstop, on his way back to the dugout, suggested they should meet in the tunnel after the game.

"I felt (his eyes) following me back to the dugout and I could read his lips and see he was saying something to me," Weiss said. "I thought he was trying to intimidate me and I reacted."

Weiss in no one to tangle with. He's heavily muscled, he's an aficionado of ultimate fighting and the money in the Braves clubhouse was on him in any fight with Johnson.

It never went beyond a stare-down and an exchange of pleasantries, however. Afterward, Johnson sent word to Weiss through friends that he meant no disrespect.

"I've always gotten along good with him," Weiss said. "He's always gone out of his way to say hi and we have a pretty good rapport. He said he didn't mean to do it."

Indeed, Weiss was called out on strikes in his next at-bat in the seventh and Johnson turned his back. ...

Kerry Ligtenberg could feel the cramp in his right calf in the eighth inning Friday night, but he was determined to pitch through it. But, after getting two outs, then walking Jason Conti and throwing a high first pitch to Damian Miller, he knew he couldn't continue.

Manager Bobby Cox, noticing Ligtenberg trying to stretch out his calf muscle, hustled from the dugout and asked the reliever when he hurt it.

"He said, `About 12 pitches ago,' " Cox said.

Ligtenberg came out, Terry Mulholland finished the inning, and Cox gave Ligtenberg the day off Saturday to rest.

"It doesn't bother me at all now," Ligtenberg said Saturday morning. "I don't really know what it was from. It wasn't a full cramp, but it got to the point where it was just about ready to knot up on me." ...

Chipper Jones had a single and home run against Johnson, upping his career average against the two-time Cy Young winner to .444. His six home runs off Johnson are more than any active or retired player have hit against the left-hander.

"I've just gotten him into some situations where I could dictate the at-bat and sit on a pitch," Jones said. "Some guys you go up and have no clue what they're going to throw and other guys you have a pretty good idea what they're going to do."

Johnson has two devastating weapons, a fastball in the high 90s and a hard slider, and the key to beating him, says Jones, is putting the ball in play against him.

"Where you have success against him is holding him to seven or eight strikeouts and put the rest of the balls in play," he said. "You'll find some holes and maybe a couple of them will go out of the park." ...

The Braves have used pitching and defense to win eight consecutive division titles. But, for the first time since 1990, the staff's earned run average will top 4.00 this season and the defense has already surpassed last year's error total.

Last season the Braves were charged with 111 errors; this year's total is 114, the National League's 10th-best. The Braves will finish the season with their highest error total since being charged with 130 in 1996.

Two players -- Jones and shortstop Rafael Furcal -- have accounted for one-third of the club's error total. Jones, who had 17 errors last season, has 21, 19 at third base, the league's third-highest total.

In his rookie season, Furcal has a team-leading 22 errors, 21 at shortstop, trailing only San Diego's Desi Relaford and St. Louis' Edgar Renteria among NL shortstops.

Yet, at the same time, the Braves are only one double play shy of matching last year's total of 127, but will fall far short of the club record of 197 in 1985.