Originally created 04/09/04

Braves' offense honors Aaron



ATLANTA - If day three of the season is indicative of what is to come, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox might call a local pharmacy and order a summer's supply of Maalox.

A half-dozen cases should do it.

The Braves spent a good portion of Thursday evening commemorating the 30th anniversary of Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run, then reached double digits in a second straight game without hitting a long ball.

On a night that was as dramatic as Wednesday night was wild, the Braves survived another shaky outing by a starter and more bullpen adventures to claim a series win over the New York Mets, their 10-8 victory keyed by Johnny Estrada's career-high four RBI, and four more hits from a sizzling Marcus Giles.

New York manager Art Howe was forced to go to his bullpen when starter Scott Erickson strained his left hamstring 11 minutes into his warmup and was scratched.

Dan Wheeler, who pitched 11/3 innings Wednesday night, went the first four on Thursday and allowed three runs on six hits.

Braves reliever Chris Reitsma struck out the two biggest bats in the Mets' order - Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza - with men on first and third in the eighth.

Presented with his first save opportunity, closer John Smoltz allowed Mike Cameron's 406-foot home run in the ninth, then whiffed Shane Spencer to end the game.

Wheeler danced out of trouble in the first, slipping a third strike past J.D. Drew and retiring Andruw Jones on a fly ball to left with men on first and third, then set down the next eight Braves.

He hit a bump in the fourth, when Jones and Adam LaRoche singled with two outs, and Estrada sent a game-tying double to the wall in left-center.

Down 4-2 in the fifth, Rafael Furcal ripped a double off center fielder Mike Cameron's glove, and Wheeler gave way to reliever David Weathers. Giles greeted Weathers with a ground ball through the right side, sending in Furcal, and Drew followed with a run-scoring double to right. Jones then singled sharply past shortstop Kaz Matsui to make it 5-4.

With 43-year-old John Franco on in the sixth, the Braves batted around and scored four runs. Franco didn't help his cause with three walks and the defense imploded with errors by Cameron and Matsui, setting up Giles' RBI single and Estrada's two-run single.

Making his Braves debut, John Thomson accomplished something neither Russ Ortiz or Mike Hampton was able to do in the first two games - he escaped the first inning without allowing a run. His triumph was shortlived, however, as the Mets, who hit five home runs in splitting the first two games, received a long ball from Ty Wigginton in the second - a 377-foot drive into the right field seats, to make it 2-0.

The Mets, picked to finish last in the National League East, restored their two-run advantage in the fifth, when second baseman Giles booted Wheeler's roller, Matsui reached on a fielder's choice, and Karim Garcia rifled a triple to the right field wall. Floyd, who doubled and walked in his first two at-bats, followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Thomson was done for the day after five.

Will Cunnane came on and surrendered Joe McEwing's game-tying single in the sixth, then C.J. Nitkowski opened the seventh with back-to-back walks to Garcia and Floyd, forcing Cox to call in Kevin Gryboski to face Piazza.

Piazza singled and three batters later Wigginton delivered a two-run single to close the gap to two runs.



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