The Braves, who have won 12 of 15, took two of three over the
weekend to pull within a game of the first-place Phillies.
"If all three teams (within two games of Philadelphia) continue
playing like this, it's going to be a great race," Franco said.
"To see it and play it, it's just great."
Atlanta starter Russ Ortiz (10-6) won his fourth straight
decision. He gave up four runs on six hits, while walking five in 5
John Smoltz worked a perfect eighth then allowed the first two
batters to reach in the ninth before finishing for his 16th save in
Smoltz, a member of the Braves' 12 straight division-winning
clubs, said he is pleasantly surprised by the makeup of this year's
team and the way the young players have picked up for the club's
injured and faltering stars.
"The MVP of the second half will be Chipper Jones. I promise
you that," Smoltz said of the Braves' struggling slugger. "I'm
going to throw that on his back right now because he's that kind of
Atlanta's first six hitters combined for 14 of the team's 16
hits and scored all six runs as the Braves roughed up the Phillies'
Randy Wolf (3-5).
With Philadelphia ahead 2-1 in the sixth, Drew drove a pitch
from Wolf inside the left-field foul pole to again draw the Braves
Jones walked and Johnny Estrada doubled to put runners at second
and third with no outs. Franco then hit an 0-1 fastball from Wolf
to right-center to give Atlanta a four-run lead.
The normally mild-mannered Wolf tossed his glove about 10 rows
into the crowd after being pulled two batters later. He gave up a
season-high 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings.
"I didn't like that glove anyway," Wolf said.
Ricky Ledee drew a one-out walk in the bottom half and David
Bell followed with his 12th home run of the year to left. The next
two hitters singled, ending Ortiz's day. Antonio Alfonseca relieved
and struck out Placido Polanco to end the threat.
The Phillies had two runners on with two outs in the seventh,
but Bell struck out on a full-count changeup from Atlanta's Chris
Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa was ejected in the top of the
ninth after arguing balls and strikes with home umpire Rob Drake.
It was the fifth time this season, 22nd in four years with the
Phillies and second time this series he has been ejected.
"I was a little behind. I only had four coming in," Bowa said.
Drake then threw out bench coach Gary Varsho after the inning.
"I didn't know every pitch had to be perfect to John Smoltz,"
said Phillies closer Billy Wagner, who was on the mound when Bowa
was ejected. "No disrespect to John, but there's no chance of him
Drew gave the Braves a 6-4 lead with an RBI single in the
eighth. He doubled leading off the top of the fourth to tie his
career-long hitting streak at 11 games, and scored to tie it 1-all
two batters later when Eli Marrero grounded into a double play.
Drew finished 4-for-5 and is 13 for his last 26 and is hitting
.455 during his hitting streak. His four-hit game was the fifth of
his career and second in the last five days.
Before Sunday's game, manager Bobby Cox said the Braves were
campaigning for Drew to be added to the National League All-Star
roster in place of the injured Ken Griffey Jr.
"Did he get it?" Cox immediately asked after the game. When he
was informed that Carlos Beltran was the chosen one, Cox just
sighed and shook his head.
"I can use a break," Drew said. "I'll take a bat home with
me. Not hit in the cage, but just keep a feel for it and make sure
I don't lose this rhythm."
^Notes:@ Phillies LF Pat Burrell was 1-for-17 against Ortiz before
his RBI single in the first inning. ... Braves CF Andruw Jones'
strikeout in the second was his sixth straight. Jones finished
0-for-12 in the series and has just three hits in his last 20
at-bats. ... A young fan was struck in the forehead in the sixth
when Burrell's bat slipped out of his hands and sailed into the
crowd. The fan was attended to for several minutes before being
carried by the ballpark's medical staff to an awaiting ambulance.
He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The Phillies said
his injury did not appear to be serious.