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,
"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
"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
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
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.
"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.''
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