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Ramirez follows Reynolds with sharp outing

4/16/2003

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- For many years, Horacio Ramirez saw
Atlanta win games with outstanding pitching. Now, the rookie is
doing his part.

Ramirez shut out Montreal until the eighth inning and Gary Sheffield hit another "jonron,'' leading the revived Braves over
the Expos 3-2 Wednesday night.

Swept at home by Montreal in a three-game series to start the
season, Atlanta is rapidly getting even with the Expos in Puerto
Rico. And the Braves are doing it in familiar fashion, albeit with
a reconfigured rotation.

"I watched those guys on TV for so long, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz and Tom Glavine,'' said Ramirez, who spent the last six
seasons in the minors. "Sometimes, it doesn't feel like I'm part
of the team because you were so used to those guys being here
together.

"It's odd, but I'm real happy with how it's going,'' he said.

A night after newcomer Shane Reynolds and the Braves' bullpen
held the Expos to one run in 10 innings, Ramirez (2-2) was
exceptional.

The 23-year-old left-hander blanked the Expos until Ron
Calloway's two-run homer in the eighth, beating the team that
defeated him two weeks ago in his major league debut.

Ramirez walked none and struck out five, not bad for a guy who
had never pitched above Double-A before this year. And it was
welcome sight for a club that started this week last in the NL in
ERA.

"We're going to get good pitching,'' Braves manager Bobby Cox
said. "We have it, it's going to come. We'll get our rotation
going, it'll be good.''

Andruw Jones doubled, singled twice and drove in two runs, and
Sheffield homered for the second straight day. Atlanta matched its
longest winning streak of the season at just two and did it with
star Chipper Jones out of the starting lineup because of a sprained
left groin.

Tomo Ohka (1-2) took the loss.

The Expos had won five in a row, including four straight in
their part-time home, before running into Atlanta's stepped-up
pitching.

"In games like this, you've got to take advantage of the
opportunities,'' Expos manager Frank Robinson said. "We're not
getting that big hit when we need it, which we were doing
earlier.''

A spirited crowd of 15,571 swayed to salsa music during batting
practice, and Ramirez kept the numerous Braves fans happy until
late in the game.

Hit hard in a loss at Florida last week, Ramirez set a quick
tempo on the mound, and ran back and forth for each inning. He was
in trouble only once, when Jose Macias and Jose Vidro led off the
bottom of the first with singles.

At that point, pitching coach Leo Mazzone made a slow, long walk
to Ramirez -- the dugouts at Hiram Bithorn Stadium and set back
maybe 60 feet farther than at all other major league stadiums -- and
offered an encouraging word. It worked, too, as Ramirez retired
Vladimir Guerrero on a popup and got Wil Cordero to ground into a
double play.

Mazzone told Ramirez to "attack'' and start using all of his
pitches, especially his slider.

"He gets half the 'W' today,'' Ramirez said.

Ramirez gave up four singles before Fernando Tatis singled for
his third hit to open the eighth. Calloway followed with his first
major league homer, and Roberto Hernandez relieved.

Hernandez finished the eighth and Smoltz pitched a perfect ninth
for his fifth save.

Sheffield hit his fourth home run of the year. The Atlanta
slugger led off the fourth with a drive over the left-field
bleachers that were built for the Expos' 22 games in San Juan this
season.

The previous night, Sheffield hit a tying home run -- they are
called either a "jonron'' or ``cuadrangular'' in Spanish -- in the
ninth.

Rafael Furcal tripled and scored on Andruw Jones' single in the
sixth, and Andruw Jones hit an RBI double in the eighth for a 3-0
lead.

Game notes
Chipper Jones flied out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. ...
Guerrero will donate 100 tickets to fans from his home country of
the Dominican Republic for each of the Expos' three Sunday games in
Puerto Rico. The tickets will help create ``La Esquina de
Vladimir'' -- his own rooting corner behind him in right field -- for
games against Cincinnati, Texas and Florida. ... Guerrero is
4-for-20 in the games at Puerto Rico. ... Atlanta C Javy Lopez, so
popular in his homeland that he needed 80 tickets for Tuesday
night's game, went 0-for-4 for the second straight day.