Lopez reached 100 RBI for the second time in his career as
Atlanta reduced its magic number for clinching a record 12th
straight division title to three with a 10-6 victory over the
Montreal Expos on Monday night.
"We're just concentrating on keeping on playing well because we
haven't lately," said Lopez, who hit a two-run double in the
seventh. "We just want to make sure that when we get to the
playoffs we're playing hot baseball."
Robert Fick hit his first homer in six weeks and Horacio Ramirez
(11-4) won his third straight decision for Atlanta, which got its
major league-leading 94th win and moved 10 games ahead of Florida
in the NL East.
Ramirez allowed seven hits and two runs in seven innings.
"He was very good. He was on the attack," Braves manager Bobby
Fick hit a three-run homer off Livan Hernandez (15-9) in the
second for his first home run since July 27, when he connected
twice against the Expos in a 13-10 loss in Montreal.
Hernandez allowed seven runs -- six earned -- and five hits in 3
1-3 innings. Despite the short outing, Hernandez raised his season
total to 217 1-3 innings, one-third of an inning more than he
needed to trigger a contract option that guarantees him a $6.5
million salary next season.
"I'm not thinking about that," Hernandez said. "I know I
needed to throw three innings, but I wasn't thinking about the
contract. I wanted to make some outs, I wanted to win. I go on the
mound and I try to do my job, and sometimes you try too hard. And I
think I tried a little too hard today."
Montreal's Brian Schneider hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Trey
Hodges in the ninth to make it 10-6.
With Montreal trailing 3-0, Vladimir Guerrero, who had his first
career cycle Sunday, hit his 25th homer -- a solo shot -- in the
Atlanta added a run on Andruw Jones' sacrifice fly in the third
to take a 4-1 lead.
The Braves added three more runs on a strange play in the
Hernandez hit Fick with a pitch to begin the inning and Vinny
Castilla singled. Ramirez bunted and Fick slid safely into third
ahead of Hernandez's throw to load the bases.
Rafael Furcal hit a soft liner which second baseman Jose Vidro
dropped, but second-base umpire Joe Brinkman and plate umpire
Derryl Cousins signaled an out. Vidro then threw home as all three
Catcher Michael Barrett caught the ball as he stepped on the
plate and ignored Fick, who scored Atlanta's fifth run unimpeded,
as he threw to third baseman Todd Zeile, who stretched to catch the
ball as Castilla slid into third.
"I didn't hear anything, so I just threw the ball to home plate
and another guy felt the same way because Michael thought that we
got the double play at third base," Vidro said.
Expos manager Frank Robinson came out to argue with Cousins as
the three other umpires sorted out the play -- which was ruled an
"To me, it's not an infield fly," Robinson said. "Vidro went
to his backhand trying to catch the ball. It wasn't a flyball, it
was a semijammed line drive, or whatever it was. They said they
called it. Well, if two of them said they called it, why didn't the
other two call it?"
When play resumed with Castilla on third, Ramirez on second and
Atlanta up 5-1, Hernandez threw a wild pitch as Castilla scored the
Braves' sixth run.
Mark De Rosa hit an RBI single to make it 7-1 and chase
Lopez blocked the plate as he took the throw and kept Guzman
from reaching the plate. But Lopez dropped the ball and Guzman
stepped on the plate before Lopez could tag him.
Lopez had 106 RBI in 1998. ... The teams combined to make
five errors, including three by Montreal. ... A crowd of 9,696
increased the Expos' attendance to 998,270 through 79 home games,
including 22 "home" dates in Puerto Rico. Montreal hasn't
surpassed the 1 million mark since drawing 1,497,609 in 1997, when
Pedro Martinez won the NL Cy Young Award in his last season in