ATLANTA - Perhaps the Atlanta Braves should let Andruw Jones bat cleanup more often.
A late batting order substitution for Chipper Jones, who was unable to play because of a stiff neck, Andruw Jones homered twice and drove in all four runs while six pitchers tied a major-league record by combining to shut out Montreal 4-0 on Saturday night before a Turner Field crowd of 34,424 fans.
"Andruw really gave us a lift," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We didn't know until right before the game that Chipper wasn't going to be able to play. Everything worked out just fine."
In more ways than one.
Not only did Jones' heroics give the Braves their seventh victory in eight tries, but Greg Maddux, Tim Spooneybarger, Chris Hammond, Darren Holmes, Mike Remlinger and John Smoltz combined to give Atlanta its club record-tying third consecutive shutout, and equal the big league mark for most pitchers used by one team in a nine-inning shutout.
Braves pitchers have not allowed a run in 29 consecutive innings, starting in the seventh inning of last Tuesday's game against Pittsburgh.
The win enabled the Braves (90-50) to cut their magic number to two games for winning the National League East after New York topped Philadelphia 5-4 earlier in the afternoon.
Atlanta can wrap up its 11th consecutive division title with a win in today's contest against the Expos, coupled with a Mets' victory in their finale at Veterans Stadium against the Phillies.
If not, the Braves can clinch the crown against New York which visits Turner Field for three games in two days beginning Tuesday night.
Jones connected on a pair of two-run homers his first two trips to the plate against Montreal starter Tomo Okha (13-7), who livened up an otherwise ordinary game by drilling the Braves' center fielder on the left ear flap in the fifth inning bringing both squads onto the field.
Okha, who hit Gary Sheffield in the third inning, was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Wally Bell who restrained Jones from reaching the mound. No punches were thrown, and both teams returned to their dugout and play continued.
"He's (Okha) got really good control, and if he really wants to hit me he can hit me in a better spot than my face," said Jones, who was taken out of the game with a bruised cheekbone. "So, I think right there it was on purpose. I guess he didn't want to be out there. Maybe he was afraid I was going to hit another home run. I won't forget."
Neither did Hammond who retaliated by hitting Brad Wilkerson with his first pitch to start the sixth and was immediately ejected by Bell, as was Cox, who was tossed from a game for the sixth time this year. Holmes replaced Hammond and pitched a scoreless seventh, followed in the eighth by Remlinger and Smoltz in the ninth.
"That's baseball, you hit one of our players we're going to hit one of yours," Jones said. "I mean, that's the way the game is supposed to be played."
As for Jones, the injury isn't considered serious, and along with Chipper Jones, is expected to be back in the lineup for today's game.
Lost in all the hullabaloo was the performance of Maddux, who picked up his 13th win with five scoreless innings.
Maddux allowed baserunners in every inning as he gave up seven hits and walked four but managed to escape trouble each time.
"Obviously, I struggled with my control, but if I'm going to miss I'd rather miss outside and that's what I did," Maddux said. "Bottom line is we won, so I have to be happy with that."
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