MONTREAL -- There is still one week left before postseason starts, one trip left to New York, one game left before Showdown Series II.
With the season's greatest explosion of offense to buoy them, the Braves made themselves at home Sunday afternoon at Olympic Stadium by demolishing the Montreal Expos 14-5, reducing their magic number for clinching a ninth straight division crown to four.
In beating the Expos for the second time in three days, the Braves scored six runs in the first two innings, took a breather for the next three, then scored eight more times over the last four innings. With Atlanta ahead 13-5, Andres Galarraga's run-scoring single in the ninth topped the club's season-high run total and helped avenge a 17-1 loss to the Expos on July 3.
"Whenever we get the opportunity to score that many runs we take advantage of it because it keeps our motivation up," said Javy Lopez, who had three hits, including a three-run home run, and scored three runs. "With the series against the Mets coming up, games like this are going to pump us up."
The Braves, who had a season-high 21 hits, took their cue from Lopez, Andruw Jones and Keith Lockhart, who drove in three runs apiece, and from Rafael Furcal and Chipper Jones, who combined for six hits, five runs and a pair of RBI.
"That's what you like to have the last week of the season," Chipper Jones said. "I don't think we could have prepared for (this afternoon's starter Javier Vazquez) any better."
Winners of 10 of their last 16 games, the Expos parlayed hits by Peter Bergeron, Andy Tracy, All-Star second baseman Jose Vidro and Wilton Guerrero into three first-inning runs against Andy Ashby. But, that was all the right-hander yielded until pinch hitter Michael Barrett's run-scoring single in the seventh with the game out of reach.
Even Montreal's bully-bat, Vladimir Guerrero, struggled against a pitcher he's owned in the past. He is a .667 career hitter against Ashby, but he was hitless in four at-bats and is now 2 for 12 in the series.
"You've got to tip your hat to the offense," said Ashby, who evened his overall record at 12-12 and improved to 8-5 with the Braves. "It's kind of frustrating to give up five runs, but the offense gave us some leeway and I very much appreciate it."
For the third time in five games and fourth time in their last eight, the Braves topped double digits. They batted around during a five-run second, then sent 16 hitters to the plate in the seventh and eighth and scored six runs.
Lopez opened the second with a single against Expos loser Mike Thurman (4-8) and in succession, Reggie Sanders (double), Lockhart (single) and Ashby (single) tied the game 3-3.
Andruw Jones, who tripled and scored in the first, then lined a bases-loaded double to right-center to make it 6-3.
In the sixth, Furcal padded the lead by launching a 2 and 2 delivery from reliever Julio Santana over the right field wall. The 20-year-old shortstop had no home runs in his first 352 at-bats; he has four in his last 83.
"I don't swing hard," Furcal said. "I try and put the ball in play and if it's a good swing, sometimes the ball, I hit it good."
More carnage followed in the seventh. Singles by Chipper Jones, Wally Joyner and Lopez loaded the bases, and Sanders delivered a two-run double against the right field wall. Lockhart followed with a run-scoring bloop double to make it 10-3.
Lopez, who had not homered since Aug. 31, took reliever Steve Kline deep in the eighth, a three-run shot into the left field stands.
Said Brian Jordan, the only regular without a hit, "It lessens my frustration to see my teammates hit well."