<
>

Greene hits first two homers of the season

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The San Diego Padres are playing their most
exciting baseball in years.

Khalil Greene hit a pair of three-run homers, including one of
the most impressive shots in Petco Park's short history, to lead
the surging Padres to their seventh straight victory, 8-4 over the
Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.

With those two big swings by their most unassuming player, the
Padres won for the 16th time in 19 games -- a span that's vaulted
them from fourth in the NL West to sole possession of the division
lead.

Greene is soft spoken and even tempered, and not even his big
day changed that.

"Yeah, I'm happy with it," he said. "I don't build it up and
get overly excited about it when it happens. I try to stay with the
perspective and just try to accomplish what I'm trying to do and
have good at-bats."

Greene's teammates and manager were certainly excited.

"He's got some pop," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's not a
Judy up there. When he gets his pitch, he's going to do some
damage."

Said Phil Nevin: "Obviously, he's not a real boisterous person.
He leads in here by example and people look up to the things he
does. You don't see that too often in a second-year player."

Nevin said Greene -- who with his long blond hair resembles
celluloid party animal Jeff Spicoli from "Fast Times at Ridgemont
High" -- did seem to have a good time Tuesday night after hitting a
game-winning single in the ninth inning.

"He got excited last night when everyone was messing up his
hair," Nevin said.

Greene had a career-high six RBI, helping Adam Eaton win his
fourth consecutive start.

Greene, the runner-up in last season's NL Rookie of the Year
voting, homered in the second and third off Horacio Ramirez (2-3).
They were his first homers since he also hit two at Colorado on
Sept. 11. Two days later, the shortstop broke his right index
finger during a game at Dodger Stadium and made just two
appearances as a pinch-runner the rest of the season.

Greene broke his right ring finger at Los Angeles on April 16
and has struggled since coming back on May 9.

Greene's shot with none out in the second traveled an estimated
404 feet and landed in the balcony on the fourth level of the
Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse just beyond the left-field
corner. Only three homers have landed there since Petco Park opened
last year, and Greene has two of them. His first one was Aug. 4
against Philadelphia.

"I think my power, or most of it, is to that spot, if I hit one
down the left-field line," Greene said. "I don't really hit too
many cheap home runs, I guess. I get it or I don't get it."

He homered to left-center with two outs in the third, a 392-foot
shot that gave the Padres a 7-0 lead.

San Diego got some help in the third when Braves second baseman
Marcus Giles and first baseman Adam LaRoche lost popups in the sun.

Giles had a popup by his older brother, Brian, tick off his
glove with one out for a single, putting runners at first and
second. With two outs, LaRoche lost a popup by Ramon Hernandez in
the sun, with the ball falling in for a single that brought in
Damian Jackson from second for a 4-0 lead. Greene then homered on a
2-2 pitch.

"I think it lost the game for us," Marcus Giles said. "If I
catch that ball we are out of the inning. I saw it off the bat, but
when the ball started coming down it was right in the middle of the
sun and I never saw it again."

Said manager Bobby Cox: "We were in the game until the sun
balls."

San Diego has swept consecutive three-game series against
Atlanta and Florida -- the top two teams in the NL East -- and has
won six straight series. It was San Diego's first three-game sweep
of the Braves since May 1991.

The Padres had to rally for their previous three victories. They
scored 10 runs in the seventh inning Sunday to beat Florida 12-4,
then rallied in the eighth Monday night and the ninth Tuesday
night, both against the Braves.

"This type of run we're on, I don't know if anybody could see
it going this well," said Bochy, who ripped into his players after
an embarrassing 10-3 loss at San Francisco on April 27 that dropped
the Padres to 9-13.

"I knew we'd come out of it. But to be this consistent for this
period of time against the type of clubs we're playing, it's been
remarkable. I can't say enough about those guys."

After Dennys Reyes allowed two runs in the ninth, Trevor Hoffman
got two outs for his 406th career save and 13th in 15 chances this
year.

Nevin hit an RBI single in the fifth.

Eaton (6-1) held the Braves to two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3
innings. He struck out five and walked none.

Andruw Jones homered leading off the seventh for the Braves, his
11th, and Raul Mondesi had a pinch-hit RBI single in the fifth. In
the ninth, Brian Jordan hit an RBI infield single and rookie Wilson
Betemit had an RBI double for his career-best third hit.

Ramirez lasted just four innings, allowing seven runs and eight
hits.

Game notes
The Padres have won nine straight at home, where they are
16-4, best in the majors. ... Greene has three career two-homer
games.