<
>

Braves thwart Pirates in 10th inning

ATLANTA (AP) -- Frustrated lately with his lack of production,
Johnny Estrada had the perfect situation to help get him back on
track.

He drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in
the 10th inning, leading the Atlanta Braves past the Pittsburgh
Pirates 2-1 Thursday.

"Bases loaded, no outs, there's no excuse for not getting the
job done," Estrada said. "I needed to drive that run in, bottom
line."

The Braves rallied against Salomon Torres (6-4), who was
pitching for the first time since serving a three-game suspension
for throwing twice at Oakland's Damian Miller last month.

Eli Marrero reached on an error by shortstop Jack Wilson to open
the 10th, and Marcus Giles walked. Rafael Furcal bunted perfectly
down the third-base line for a hit, leaving catcher Jason Kendall
with no play.

"When you walk guys, it really hurts," Torres said.

Estrada, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, followed
with a long fly to left to bring in Marrero. Estrada still leads
the majors with a .434 average with runners in scoring position,
but he finished 3-for-22 overall on an eight-game homestand.

"Every time I get up, regardless of the position I'm in, I
expect myself to have a good at-bat," Estrada said. "I don't
think I've been doing that lately. I've gotten a lot of
opportunities lately and I haven't been coming through."

Chris Reitsma (4-2) pitched a scoreless 10th for the win.

The Braves rebounded from a 4-3 loss a night earlier and moved
back into a first-place tie with the Philadelphia Phillies in the
NL East. The Phillies lost to Florida 10-8 Thursday.

Atlanta starter Russ Ortiz pitched eight strong innings but
missed out on a chance to win his sixth straight start. He allowed
one run on six hits and pitched around four walks.

As good as Ortiz was, counterpart Kip Wells might have been
better. He gave up one run on four hits in eight innings, and
retired 11 of 12 batters at one point. Wells struck out four and
had no walks.

"We went out knowing we had our work cut out for us, the way
Ortiz had been pitching," Wells said. "We did what we were
supposed to, but we still lost the game."

Tike Redman finished 3-for-5 for the Pirates, who lost for only
the second time in seven games.

Pittsburgh nearly took the lead against Atlanta closer John
Smoltz in the ninth. Jason Bay led off with a walk, then moved to
second on a sacrifice. Kendall was intentionally walked, and Wilson
singled sharply to center.

But third base coach John Russell stopped Bay to leave the bases
loaded, and Randall Simon, the third straight pinch-hitter,
grounded into a double play to end the threat.

The Braves turned three double plays to spoil Pittsburgh
rallies.

"Luck, it happens," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said.

Giles, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and then
stayed in to play second, made a nice backhanded stop on a short
hop, then tossed the ball to Furcal to start the double play.

The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the third when Redman doubled
with two outs and scored on a single by Abraham Nunez. Atlanta left
fielder Charles Thomas appeared to have a chance to throw out
Redman at the plate, but his throw sailed well over the head of
catcher Eddie Perez.

In the bottom half, the Braves tied it on a sacrifice fly to
right by Furcal. He brought in Perez, who narrowly beat the throw
by Rob Mackowiak.

"Ortiz and Wells, you can't get too much better than either of
those guys pitched," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "And it was
a day where the ball was going to fly out of here if you touched
it. It's amazing that balls didn't go out of the ballpark."

Game notes
Pirates C J.R. House made the first start of his major
league career and finished 0-for-3. ... Atlanta RF J.D. Drew
singled in the first and extended his career-long hitting streak to
19 games. ... Pittsburgh 2B Jose Castillo went 0-for-3 and is
3-for-31 since hitting a homer off Florida's Josh Beckett on July
5. ... Smoltz had two walks in an appearance for the first time
since Aug. 16, 2002, against Colorado.