MONTREAL -- The news that John Rocker wouldn't be of any help tothe Braves as they tried to run the table here Thursday night sent ashudder through the visiting dugout.
A tremor rippled through the bullpen too.
However, the Braves have proven better than the Thrashers atplaying shorthanded.
Minus Rocker, who was given the night off after saving the firsttwo games of the series, the Braves completed a sweep of the MontrealExpos and extended their win streak to six with a 4-3 decision in 11innings before a stunned crowd of 4,575 at Olympic Stadium.
"That game had too much of everything," manager Bobby Cox said."A balk, guys thrown out ... It was one of those games that was so
tight, you make the slightest mistake and you might lose the game." Leadoff man Quilvio Veras, who was hitless in four earlier at-bats,won the game by delivering a two-out, two-run double against relieverScott Strickland in the 11th. Veras' hit followed a walk to Javy Lopezand Dave Martinez's second straight single, and bounced on one hopagainst the center field wall.
"(Strickland) made a mistake and left me something right down themiddle," said Veras of Strickland's first-pitch changeup. "In thatsituation, the game's tied, I'm just trying to get a hit."
Try as they might, the Braves couldn't give it away.
Odalis Perez balked in the Expos' first run. Third base coach NedYost waved a runner into an out at the plate. Jason Marquis gave up agame-tying home run to Expos strongman Vladimir Guerrero in the ninth.Bernard Gilkey was picked off second in the 11th. Closer-for-the-nightKerry Ligtenberg gave up a run in the 11th, but came away with hisfirst save.
"It was nice to get out there and feel like I contributed alittle," said Ligtenberg, who made his first appearance since May 27."After 10 or 11 days, I felt a little rusty, but fortunately I got itdone."
Perez, who's popped off twice in recent weeks about taking aregular turn in the rotation, went six innings and allowed three hitsand one run. He gave way to Jose Cabrera, who worked the seventh, thenMarquis made an 0 and 2 mistake to Guerrero in the ninth, leaving afastball over the plate and the Expos' right fielder launched it overthe right field wall.
"I didn't regret the pitch I threw," Marquis said, "but I didn'tget it to the spot I wanted. I was trying to go down and away and theball ran back over the plate."
As many mistakes as the Braves made, the Expos matched them.
In the fifth, third baseman Geoff Blum booted Perez's tapper, andone out later Rafael Furcal rolled into a fielder's choice and stolesecond. Andruw Jones coaxed a full-count walk from Armas, then ChipperJones lined a double against the left-center field wall to make it 2-1.
A poor decision by Yost cost the Braves a run in the sixth. B.J.Surhoff led off with a double, Lopez followed with a smash through themiddle, and Yost inexplicably waved Surhoff to the plate.
Yost's misdeed didn't go unpunished. Terry Jones gloved the ball inshallow field and made an off-line throw to the plate, but it was stillin plenty of time to catch the sliding Surhoff.
Perez's balk cost a run in the fourth. Mike Mordecai and Blumsingled, then Perez induced a pop up from Guerrero. Lee Stevens tappedto second baseman Quilvio Veras, but Perez started his delivery withOrlando Cabrera at the plate, then stopped, and was called for a balk,allowing Mordecai to stroll in with the first run the Expos had scoredin their last 17 innings.
"I got confused," Perez said. "Javy (Lopez) called a breakingball and went to the outside corner. I thought, what am I going tothrow now? I did balk."
What's next? If you're the Braves, you're prepared for anything.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.
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