Originally created 05/29/03

Braves' batters beat up on Reds



ATLANTA - After failing to record an out in his last start, Cincinnati's Jeff Austin vowed this one would be different, and it was.

The Reds right-hander got two outs in the first inning Wednesday night before he was excused under a barrage of home runs. By the end of the evening and a ridiculously easy 15-3 Atlanta Braves win, there was proof that San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy was right when he described Atlanta's lineup as the Braves' best in a dozen years.

For the price of admission, the 25,713 spectators who gathered at Turner Field saw the Braves tie a franchise record with four home runs in the first and become the second team in major league history to start a game with three consecutive home runs.

"I'm sure you'll never see that again," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "They weren't wind-aided; they were really hit. Everybody did a little hitting tonight."

The Braves collected 18 hits - 11 for extra bases - against four Reds pitchers.

Rafael Furcal had three hits, including home runs in his first two at-bats, the first multihomer game of his career, and four runs. Javy Lopez had three hits and four RBI, two coming on his 13th home run in the first.

Mark DeRosa collected three hits, in a cameo appearance for second baseman Marcus Giles. Gary Sheffield had two hits, including his 13th home run.

Matt Franco had three hits, two runs and one RBI after taking over for Robert Fick at first base in the fourth.

Every Atlanta player - except Andruw Jones - drove in at least one run or scored one in the most lopsided game of the season. In all, the Braves hit six home runs, their first six-homer game since 1996, when they also victimized the Reds.

"I'll tell you what, it's awesome watching these guys hit," Franco said. "Our lineup is incredible. These guys are raking from top to bottom."

Furcal, who is making a serious bid to be the starting National League All-Star shortstop, jump-started the Braves with the seventh leadoff home run of his career. In the span of five pitches, DeRosa and Sheffield also went deep against Austin, who sat in the dugout after the bashing looking forlorn.

"We've got a lot of guys with a lot of power," said Furcal, who is now batting .341. "It's impressive to start a game like that."

Austin, the first major league pitcher since Cleveland's Scott Scudder in 1992 to fail to get out of the first inning in consecutive starts, now has allowed 10 earned runs in his last two outings, while registering just two outs.

"This team is definitely better without me on it right now," said Austin, who was demoted to Class AAA Louisville after the game.

Russ Ortiz went on cruise control for the win, his seventh in 10 decisions. He gave up two runs on two hits in six innings. The Braves' lead was so big that Reds manager Bob Boone pulled center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. in the sixth.

"I've never had a lineup like this," said Ortiz, who spent five years with the San Francisco Giants. "You never know what is going to happen when these guys swing the bats."

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.