Series: Game 3 of 3

Atlanta won 2-1

Game 1: Monday, September 15
Game 2: Tuesday, September 16
in 10
Game 3: Wednesday, September 17

Braves 14

(95-58, 44-34 away)

Expos 4

(77-76, 52-29 home)

    5:05 PM ET, September 17, 2003

    Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec 

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    ATL 50051120 - 14 18 2
    MON 00010011 - 3 10 0

    W: M. Hampton (14-7)

    L: T. Tucker (1-3)

    Braves one win from NL East title

    MONTREAL (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves are ready to celebrate their latest success.

    Mike Hampton allowed three hits in five innings and hit a home run as Atlanta closed in on its record 12th straight division title with a 14-4 victory over the Montreal Expos on Wednesday night.

    Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones also homered, and manager Bobby Cox got his 1,900th win as the Braves reduced their magic number for winning the NL East to one.

    "If we don't celebrate, I may not play again," Jones said. "Last year we didn't, and we go bang in the first round. We celebrate this year. We're going all the way. A lot of teams don't get a chance, so we should take it when we can."

    Atlanta, which clinched a playoff berth Tuesday night, would clinch the division title with a Florida loss at Philadelphia later Wednesday night.

    The Braves flew home following the game, and begin a four-game series against the Marlins on Friday.

    Hampton (14-7) struck out three and walked four.

    "Hampton pitched good," Cox said. "He dinged his knee up a little and I didn't want to take any chances. He could have gone nine. It's not a big deal. He's had it all year, nothing major. Just on Astroturf it aggravates it."

    Hampton said he felt fine.

    "I just need to fine-tune some things," Hampton said. "I'm looking forward to finishing strong and getting off to a good start in the postseason. The biggest thing is to get into the postseason and then to play right and well and win the whole thing. That's why we're here."

    Lopez's 41st homer was his 40th as a catcher, one behind Todd Hundley's major league record set in 1996 for the New York Mets.

    "We've still got plenty of games to go and I just hope that I can continue to hit as I've been hitting," Lopez said. "If I hit another home run, it will be welcome. I'm just not thinking about it. I don't want to try to hit a home run just to get the record."

    Vladimir Guerrero, eligible to become a free agent after the season, went 2-for-2 with a walk as Montreal ended its home schedule with a 39-20 record at Olympic Stadium. The Expos finished with a 52-29 home record, including 22 "home" games at Puerto Rico.

    After he was removed in the sixth, Guerrero came out of the dugout for a pair of curtain calls from the crowd of 17,526. He refused to talk to reporters following the game after telling the crowd: "Merci beaucoup, I love you and muchas gracias."

    Expos manager Frank Robinson was booed loudly when he went out to the mound to make a pitching change shortly after he took Guerrero out of the game in the sixth.

    "I've been booed before but there's a reason, and they didn't have a reason tonight," Robinson said. "Nothing surprises me in this game, the longer I've been in this game. If they wanted to see Guerrero, they should have come out more often. They had plenty of chances."

    Atlanta, which had a season-high 19 hits, got four straight singles off T.J. Tucker (1-3) with one out in the first to go up 2-0.

    Julio Franco hit a two-run double for Atlanta's fifth straight hit. One out later, Darren Bragg's RBI single made it 5-0 and chased Tucker.

    "He didn't have anything and he didn't fool anybody," Robinson said. "It just wasn't his night."

    Lopez's two-run shot capped a five-run fourth against Vic Darensbourg to increase Atlanta's lead to 10-0.

    Orlando Cabrera hit a run-scoring grounder in the fourth, but Hampton made it 11-1 with a solo shot -- the 12th of his career -- off Hector Almonte with two outs in the fifth.

    Jones added his 36th homer in the sixth off Almonte, who allowed two more runs in the seventh on a wild pitch and Marcus Giles' RBI single.

    Game notes

    Hampton threw 40 of 69 pitches for strikes. ... The Expos drew 1,025,639 overall this season, including the 22 games in Puerto Rico.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press