<
>

Lopez homers twice, drives in three runs

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Two homers in two at-bats? Given the way Javy Lopez has been swinging, no one was surprised.

Another triple? Now, that's hard to explain.

Lopez tripled and hit a pair of homers in his first three
at-bats Thursday night as the Atlanta Braves avoided a series sweep
and beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-4.

After dropping two in a row for the first time since April
11-12, the major leagues' top team rebounded behind an impressive
showing from its pitcher-catcher tandem.

Lopez tripled and scored in the second, hit a two-run shot off
Ryan Dempster (1-4) in the third, then led off the sixth with his
10th homer, the most by any NL catcher.

It's only one shy of his total for last season. His career high
was 34 homers in 1998, when he also drove in a career-best 106
runs.

"I'm comfortable at the plate," Lopez said. "It feels like
old times with my stance and everything."

His triple off the base of the wall in center was his second of
the season -- stunning for a catcher who had 11 in his first nine
season.

"Every now and then, I surprise some people," said Lopez,
who's now second on the Braves in homers and triples.

Lopez also had a key role in holding down an offense that scored
18 runs while winning the first two games of the series.

Jose Guillen homered in each of his first two at-bats against
Shane Reynolds (4-1), but the right-hander allowed only four other
hits through 6 2/3 innings as he beat the Reds for the fourth
straight start.

Reynolds struck out nine, getting Felipe Lopez and Adam Dunn
three times apiece. He left the game after giving up Lopez's RBI
single in the seventh.

"It felt like Javy and myself got into a good groove,"
Reynolds said. "I felt good."

Atlanta has the majors' best record at 32-15 and has dominated
Cincinnati since 1995, when it swept the Reds in the NL
championship series. Taking two-of-three amounted to a breakthrough
for the Reds, who have won 11 of their last 16 games overall.

Marcus Giles, who left the series opener with a bruised calf,
returned to the Braves lineup and had three hits. Gary Sheffield
extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a two-run single in
the sixth.

It was another frustrating outing for Dempster, who missed one
start with an inflamed nerve in his neck earlier this month and
hasn't been able to get straightened out. He gave up nine runs and
11 hits, matching his career high, but also struck out 10 in six
innings.

"He made a ton of outstanding pitches,'' manager Bob Boone
said. ``And he made mistakes in the middle of the plate to a good
hitting ballclub. He just made a lot of mistakes in the middle of
the plate.''
Dempster also fussed at Felipe Lopez in the dugout after
Atlanta's four-run third inning. The shortstop hesitated while
making a relay on Robert Fick's two-out double, allowing Andruw
Jones to score from first.

Javy Lopez followed with a two-run homer, and Dempster pointed
at Felipe Lopez and yelled at him in the dugout after the Braves
were retired. Lopez didn't respond, and Dempster then sat on the
bench and chewed on a white towel.

Lopez didn't want to talk about it. Boone said it was no big
deal. Dempster said it was nothing personal.

"I was more frustrated with myself and my whole season,"
Dempster said. "It's nobody's fault but my own. It should have
been a lot closer game, but I let it get out of hand."

Dempster has allowed at least five runs in each of his last four
starts, pushing his ERA to 7.96.

Lopez will be the starting shortstop for at least the next
couple of weeks. The Reds put Barry Larkin on the 15-day disabled
list before the game with a strained calf.

Game notes
The Braves finished their trip at 7-3. They'll face the
Mets and former Braves starter Tom Glavine this weekend in Atlanta.
... It was Javy Lopez's second multihomer game this season and the
14th of his career. He also hit two on April 17 against Montreal.
... 3B Vinny Castilla went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, ending his
hitting streak at eight games. ... Reynolds has won all four of his
starts against the Reds since July 4, 1999. ... RHP Jimmy Haynes
threw 6 2-3 shutout innings for the Reds' Triple-A team in
Louisville, giving up three hits. Haynes, sidelined by a sore back,
is expected to rejoin the club soon. ... Guillen's two-homer game
was the first of his career. ... 1B Sean Casey was 0-for-5, ending
his 10-game hitting streak. ... OF Austin Kearns, who bumped his
shoulder in a play at the plate on Wednesday, was out of the Reds
lineup.