Braves win 12th consecutive series


ATLANTA (AP) -- Javy Lopez doesn't get to start when Greg Maddux
pitches, but he was in there when it counted.

Lopez hit an infield single off third baseman Fernando Tatis'
glove to score Vinny Castilla in the ninth inning and give the
Atlanta Braves a 6-5 victory over the Montreal Expos on Wednesday

The Braves won their 12th straight series and stretched their
lead over second-place Montreal to 9½ games in the NL East.

With two outs in the ninth, Jim Brower (3-1) hit Castilla with a
pitch and gave up a single to Keith Lockhart, moving Castilla to
third. Lopez hit a sharp grounder to third that bounced off Tatis
and rolled toward the Montreal dugout.

Lopez easily beat out the hit as Castilla scored the winning

"I hit the ball pretty hard,'' Lopez said. "I even forgot
Vinny was on third base, but while I was running, I saw him come in
and said, 'That's it.'''

Lopez doesn't start when Maddux pitches but entered the game in
the ninth inning.

"It was supposed to be my off day,'' Lopez said. "I was
concentrating as much as I could to just finish that game right
there. But things worked out, and I got my rest, too.''

Closer John Smoltz (1-2) pitched one scoreless inning for the
win, his first since last September.

"I'm not going to get many wins, so it was kind of a bonus,''
he said.

Julio Franco tied the game in the eighth with a two-out double.

The Braves' bullpen entered the game with an 18-9 record and a
2.31 ERA, but reliever Chris Hammond couldn't protect a 4-3 lead in
the eighth. Jose Vidro reached on a two-base throwing error by
shortstop Rafael Furcal and scored on Guerrero's double.

After Guerrero moved to third on a sacrifice by Troy O'Leary and
Fernando Tatis struck out, Orlando Cabrera hit a sharp single up
the middle.

"We did battle, but we didn't do enough,'' Montreal manager
Frank Robinson said. "The effort was there. That's why it's tough
to take.''

Maddux had been hampered in his past three starts with a sore
calf muscle but appeared stronger, allowing three runs -- two earned
-- and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He still hasn't lost in his past
12 starts.

Mike Remlinger got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh by
striking out pinch-hitter Andres Galarraga and Jose Macias with
nearly identical 93 mph fastballs on the outside corner.

With the Braves trailing 1-0, Lockhart led off the fifth with a
single to center, just the second hit off Tony Armas Jr. Lockhart
scored two outs later on a double by Furcal, and Matt Franco hit
his fifth homer, matching his career high in just 46 at-bats.

Montreal closed to 3-2 in the sixth on Vidro's second RBI
groundout of the game, but the Braves got the run back in their
half of the inning on a bases-loaded walk by pinch-hitter Julio

"The Francos, the Lockharts and the Furcals -- they got the kind
of production from the little guys you don't expect,'' Robinson

Maddux ran into trouble in the seventh, giving up a one-out
double to Tatis and a single to Cabrera. Cabrera then stole second,
and Tatis scored on the play when Furcal dropped the ball while
covering second.

Maddux left after walking Michael Barrett, and reliever Kevin
Gryboski forced home a run by walking Wil Cordero. But Remlinger
came in to get out of the jam.

Game notes
Furcal's single in the in the fifth gave him a 12-game
hitting streak, tying a career high. ... The start of the game was
delayed 30 minutes by rain. Neither team took batting practice.