ATLANTA -- All it will take for folks to jump off the bandwagon isthe next loss, especially if (God forbid) the Atlanta Braves fall outof first place.
But for the next 24 hours, at least, the humidity smells as sweetas honeysuckle and life at Turner Field is a toe-tapping bluegrassfestival.
The best ride of the summer was extended for another day Thursdaynight after the Braves' 6-2, 10-inning win over the New York Metsbefore 40,055 at Turner Field, a season-best seventh straight victorythat wasn't insured until Javy Lopez delivered his second home run ofthe game, a two-strike grand slam against closer Armando Benitez.
"I was joking with Eddie (Perez) that if I didn't get at least onehit, I was going to retire," said Lopez, who took 20 minutes of extrahitting in the afternoon heat, then used Perez's bat for both homeruns and finished with a career-high five RBI. "What I got out (of theextra bp) was confidence and getting loose with my swing. My swing waspretty tight."
Lopez batted just .217 (5 for 23) on the trip to New York andPhiladelphia, and was hitting .200 with runners in scoring positionthis season. Benitez (3-3) got two strikes on Lopez, then threw afastball high and wide, and Lopez ripped a line drive into the leftfield stands.
"The great thing about it is seeing somebody different pick us upevery day," right fielder Brian Jordan said. "We're playing greatteam baseball right now and that's very exciting."
Three relievers -- Jose Cabrera, Steve Karsay and Steve Reed --combined to shut out the Mets on three hits over the last threeinnings.
The win went to Reed, who has appeared in four games with theBraves since last Friday's trade, and has two wins.
Tom Glavine gave the Braves a solid performance, but took his sixthno-decision. The bullpen, which betrayed Glavine in his last twostarts, blowing eighth- and ninth-inning leads, played BenedictArnold to Glavine's West Point again.
Glavine was dismissed after putting the tying run on base with awalk to Robin Ventura to start the eighth, then Benny Agbayani singledto right against Cabrera, and Timo Perez's delivered a game-tyingsacrifice fly.
"They're not going to save every game, every opportunity theyget," said Glavine, who allowed seven hits and two runs. "As long asthey do it most of the time. Unfortunately, I've been the recipient ofthose odd occasions when they don't throw well."
While Glavine's pitching spoke volumes, his defense used amegaphone to announce itself. Mark DeRosa, making his first start atsecond base, made an outstanding play on Joe McEwing's roller behindsecond in the third, diving and throwing him out, then shortstop RafaelFurcal made the play of the game to end the sixth.
With Agbayani running off second, Furcal darted to his left and,leaping, glove outstretched, snared pitcher Glendon Rusch's bid for athird straight single to keep the game scoreless.
"I was getting pretty friendly with the second base umpire and Iwas telling him the games up here are so intense, compared withTriple-A," said DeRosa, who had three hits and scored a run. "It wasreally enjoyable, especially when you come out on the winning side."
McEwing delivered his fifth home run of the season in the seventhto spot Rusch a 1-0 lead, but the advantage lasted less time than ittook a fan to reach a concession stand and return with a hot dog andsoft drink.
Rusch, beaten 9-3 by the Braves last Saturday at Shea, did anabout-face that would have made Parris Island drill sergeants happy.Mixing changeups and fastballs like, well, Glavine, he slipped out of athird-inning jam with a strikeout of Wes Helms, then held the Bravesscoreless until the seventh, when Lopez launched his first pitch intothe left field stands to tie the score 1-all.
"Javy had been struggling the whole road trip and hits two hugehome runs," said an admiring manager Bobby Cox. "How do you figurebaseball?"
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.
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