Braves trailed 7-0 before rallying

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves had staged an improbable
rally -- one that had the potential of turning around their dismal
season -- and John Smoltz was on the brink of letting it all go to

The Braves led 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth, but Baltimore had
a runner on third with one out when former teammate Javy Lopez
stepped to the plate for the Baltimore Orioles.

"Obviously, I did not want to have a heartbreak in the ninth
inning," Smoltz said.

Atlanta's closer did the job, striking out Lopez and retiring
Larry Bigbie on a grounder to preserve a much-needed victory

J.D. Drew homered in a seven-run eighth inning, and the Braves
used their biggest comeback of the season to take two of three from
Baltimore and end a run of five straight series losses.

"I don't know if we'll ever see that again," Smoltz said of
the rally.

Atlanta trailed 7-0 after six innings, but scored a run in the
seventh and then got seven hits in the eighth.

"Generally, you don't have a lot of comebacks when you're down
seven runs with two at-bats to go," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
"But they were whooping and hollering in the dugout to get it

"And they did."

The last-place Orioles, who have lost seven straight series,
wasted an outstanding pitching performance by Matt Riley. The
rookie took a shutout into the seventh inning and left with a 7-1
lead, but the bullpen gave it away.

Asked if it was the team's toughest loss, rookie manager Lee
Mazzilli said, "It is for me. ... When you give up seven runs like
that, it's tough to swallow."

Eli Marrero led off the eighth with a single off Mike DeJean and
Drew followed with his 15th homer. After Chipper Jones singled,
Jason Grimsley (3-4) entered and threw wildly to second on a

"It's not a good play," Grimsley said. "There's no excuse for
that. That's two outs I gave away there, then I strike out Andruw
Jones and the inning's over."

After Jones struck out, Johnny Estrada and Mark DeRosa both hit
RBI singles. Nick Green then doubled in a run and Rafael Furcal
tied it with an infield hit before Marrero drove in the tiebreaking
run by hitting into a fielder's choice.

"We have to build on this," Smoltz said. "We have to remember
we are capable of this. We haven't done one of these all year,

Juan Cruz (1-0) pitched the seventh inning, and Smoltz earned
his 13th save by getting four outs -- none more important than the
strikeout of Lopez with the infield drawn in.

"You think hopefully you're going to get a run in, but we
didn't do it," Mazzilli said. "That's why Smoltz is what he is."

Atlanta starter Jaret Wright was victimized by poor fielding in
his bid to win his fourth straight decision.

The Orioles opened the scoring with two unearned runs in the
third. After a throw by second baseman Jesse Garcia pulled
shortstop Furcal off the bag on an attempted force play, Miguel
Tejada drove in a run with a grounder and Rafael Palmeiro hit a
two-out RBI single.

Baltimore went up 7-0 with a five-run sixth that began with two
straight outs. After Lopez singled, Garcia was slow to cover second
base on Bigbie's grounder to short, and Furcal's throw to first was
too late.

Luis Matos then doubled in two runs and Brian Roberts chased
Wright with a two-run single. David Newhan greeted Sam McConnell
with an RBI single.

A single by Julio Franco, a double by Andruw Jones and a
run-scoring single by Estrada spelled the end for Riley, who left
to a standing ovation.

That started the comeback, but Smoltz couldn't help thinking
about how poorly the Braves played to that point.

"That's probably the worst baseball game we have won in a long
time," he said. "Hopefully that's a good sign. It's not a good
sign the way we played today's baseball game."

Game notes
Newhan extended his career-high hitting streak to nine
games. ... Atlanta's seventh-inning run ended a string of 24
innings by Baltimore starters without yielding an earned run.