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Lopez homers again; Smoltz saves No. 51

9/16/2002

MIAMI (AP) -- Javy Lopez capped the best weekend of his most
frustrating season with the game's biggest blow.

A pinch-hit grand slam gave Lopez 10 RBI for the series, and
the Atlanta Braves beat the Florida Marlins 6-4 Sunday.

Lopez hit a homer for the third game in a row but has just 10
this season. He's 4-for-7 in the series to raise his average to
.233, still well below his career mark of .282.

"Sometimes it's a month and I don't hit a home run,'' Lopez
said. "It's the first time I've ever been in this situation,
hitting that low. I'm taking it as experience. I hope I don't fall
into this hole again. It's a bad hole.''

Florida rookie Justin Wayne shut out Atlanta for five innings
but couldn't get through the sixth. Gary Sheffield's pinch-hit RBI
single made it 2-all, and Lopez's two-out homer off Graeme Lloyd
put the Braves ahead.

"It's good to get it going,'' Lopez said. "It has been a long
season. Sooner or later things have to change.''

Lopez was batting for Damian Moss (11-5), who won his fourth
consecutive decision by allowing two runs and four hits in five
innings. Lopez also had a pinch-hit homer Friday.

John Smoltz pitched a perfect ninth for his major league-leading
51st save. He has blown only four save chances and needs six saves
to tie Bobby Thigpen's big league record set in 1990. He also lowered his ERA to 3.50, and opponents are batting .161 against him.

"I'm trying to make quick work, throw strikes and not waste
anything,'' Smoltz said. "And it has been working.''

A crowd of 7,844 was the smallest to see the Braves play in
Miami.

Florida's Kevin Millar hit a solo homer in the sixth to extend
his hitting streak to 21 games, longest of his career and the
longest active streak in the majors. Millar also provided footage
for TV highlights when he tripped over himself and fell on his rear
after catching a routine fly in left field.

"That darn football field,'' Millar said. "I must have stepped
in a Ricky Williams divot. I wanted to move, but I couldn't. My
spikes got caught in the shoelaces.''

Charles Johnson hit his sixth homer for Florida. Mike Lowell
doubled in the sixth to extend his hitting streak to 13 games.

Wayne (1-2), making his third career start and first in Miami,
left leading 2-1 but was charged with four runs. He allowed five
hits in 5 1-3 innings.

The skimpy crowd suggested the Miami Dolphins must be more
popular than Julian Tavarez. The game went head-to-head with the
telecast of the Dolphins' game at Indianapolis, and on Tavarez
bobblehead doll day, 7,156 of the souvenirs went unclaimed.

Trailing 2-0, the Braves began their comeback with one out in
the sixth. Chipper Jones and Julio Franco singled, and Matt Franco
and Marcus Giles walked to force in a run and send Wayne to the
showers.

Sheffield, one of four regulars held out of the starting lineup
by the NL East champions, followed with single off Lloyd. After
Henry Blanco struck out, Lopez homered to the opposite field on a
2-0 pitch.

"When I was on the other side, the key to this lineup was
Javy,'' Sheffield said. "When he put up big numbers, the Braves
scored 10 or 11 runs a game.''

Johnson put the Marlins ahead with a leadoff homer in the third.
Their other runs scored on a sacrifice fly by Juan Encarnacion and
a single by Derrek Lee.

Game notes
Braves center fielder Andruw Jones and shortstop Rafael
Furcal, both battling the flu, were held out of the lineup for the
second consecutive game. Furcal is in a 9-for-59 slump (.153). ...
The previous smallest crowd for a Braves game in Miami was 9,177
last Sept. 27. ... Tavarez, originally scheduled to pitch Sunday,
was given an extra two days to rest a sore rib cage. He's now
scheduled to start Tuesday against Montreal.