Series: Game 1 of 3

Atlanta leads 1-0 (as of 6/3)

Game 1: Monday, June 3
New York 4Final
Atlanta 5
Game 2: Tuesday, June 4
New York Postponed
Game 2: Wednesday, June 5
New York 4Final
Atlanta 6
Game 3: Thursday, June 6
New York 2Final
Atlanta 3

Mets 4

(29-28, 15-15 away)

Braves 5

(32-26, 17-13 home)

7:35 PM ET, June 3, 2002

Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia 

123456789 R H E
NYM 002200000 4 - -
ATL 40000100 - 5 - -

W: C. Hammond (2-2)

L: S. Trachsel (3-6)

S: J. Smoltz (15)

Castilla hits early slam, Jones homers late

ATLANTA (AP) -- Vinny Castilla hit a grand slam in the first inning, but it wasn't enough for the Atlanta Braves. They had to rely on their bullpen to win this game.

The relievers pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings Monday night after Kevin Millwood faltered, ensuring a 5-4 victory over the New York Mets that lengthened Atlanta's lead in the NL East.

Andruw Jones hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth after the Mets rallied to get to 4-all. He got that chance because of the stellar work of a bullpen that leads the majors with a 2.61 ERA.

"It's a big boost for the team,'' said Kevin Gryboski, who made a critical pitch in the seventh to get Mike Piazza to hit into a double play. "Millwood didn't have his good stuff, but everybody came in and picked him up.''

The Braves extended their division lead to a season-high 2 1/2 games, winning for the seventh time in nine games. The second-place Mets lost their third in a row.

Staked to a 4-0 lead by Castilla's homer, Millwood couldn't hold it. He hit two batters with the bases loaded in the third, then was knocked out in the fourth by Roberto Alomar's two-run double.

Fortunately for the Braves, the bullpen was untouchable. Chris Hammond (2-2) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for the win, Gryboski made the big pitch to Piazza and John Smoltz got the final four outs for his 15th save.

"The bullpen came on and shut things down completely,'' manager Bobby Cox said. "That's the way it's been going all year long.''

While Smoltz, a starter-turned-reliever, is a former Cy Young winner, the rest of the bullpen is rather nondescript. Hammond was out of the game for 2 1/2 years, while Gryboski was acquired in a minor league deal during the offseason.

"We've got a really good mix of guys,'' reliever Mike Remlinger said. "We've got guys with experience, young guys like Gryboski who have been pitching great. We have enough variety to mix and match no matter what the situation.''

Jones led off the sixth with a 418-foot drive into the center-field bleachers against Steve Trachsel (3-6), who was victimized by the long ball after giving up just three homers in his first 11 starts.

Castilla struck with two outs in the first, after Trachsel walked two and gave up a single to Gary Sheffield. The Braves third baseman lined a breaking pitch down the right-field line, the ball striking just a few feet up the foul pole for a 334-foot, opposite-field homer.

"I thought it was going foul, but it stayed fair,'' Castilla said. "I usually try to pull everything, but he threw me a slider and I stayed back on it.''

It was the fourth grand slam of Castilla's career, the last coming exactly a year earlier when he played for the Houston Astros.

"I'm still in shock,'' Trachsel said. "I can't see how he kept it fair. I thought it was a good pitch, but he hit it off the foul pole.''

Millwood breezed through the first two innings, then ran into trouble in the third.

After the Mets loaded the bases with two outs, Piazza was grazed by a pitch on his left hand to drive in a run. Millwood got two quick strikes on Mo Vaughn before plunking him, too, to make it 4-2.

Millwood finally got the third out, but couldn't make it through the next inning.

Jeromy Burnitz and Roger Cedeno opened with back-to-back singles and were still on base two outs later when Millwood made another mistake on 0-2. This time, Alomar lined a double to the wall in left-center, prompting Cox to make a chance.

After Hammond's stellar work, Remlinger gave up two singles in the seventh. But Gryboski worked out of it by getting Piazza to hit into an inning-ending double play.

"The biggest pitch'' of the game is the way Cox described it. Gryboski agreed.

"That's a tough situation to come into,'' he said. "I tried to get him to hit a ground ball, and I got it.''

Smoltz struck out Rey Ordonez with two on in the eighth, then got Piazza on a grounder to end the game. "I took some bad swings,'' Piazza said. "It's a tough stretch for us, but we just have to hang in there.''

Game notes

Vaughn had an interesting night. Big Mo legged out an infield hit -- a squibber down the third-base line with the Braves in a severe shift toward the right side of the infield. Then, he nearly did a backward somersault while catching a popup in foul territory behind first base. ... Former Braves IF Mark Lemke began a stint in the radio broadcast booth. He is filling in for Don Sutton, who is expected to be out 3-to-6 weeks while recovering from surgery to remove a growth on his left kidney. ... A scorcher in Hot 'Lanta: The temperature was 90 degrees for the first pitch at 7:37 p.m. Cox said the heat contributed to Millwood's problems. ... A small child sitting next to the Braves dugout was struck in the eighth when Burnitz let go of his bat on a swing. The child was taken away for medical treatment but didn't appear seriously injured.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press