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Closer Smoltz converts 22nd straight save

7/20/2002

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- John Smoltz is on another roll, this time as
a closer.

Already the franchise record-holder for consecutive wins by a
Braves starter, Smoltz set another team mark by converting his 22nd
straight save as Atlanta held on for a 4-3 victory over the
Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.

Smoltz shared the Braves record for consecutive saves with Mark
Wohlers, who converted 21 chances in a row in 1995. Before becoming
one of the premier closers in the majors, Smoltz was an All-Star
starter who earned 14 straight victories in 1996.

"The only reason I've been able to get into this position is
because of the guys in front of me,'' said Smoltz, who has allowed
four runs and struck out 31 over his last 23 appearances.

Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones each drove in two runs. Julio
Franco had two hits and scored twice for the NL East-leading
Braves, who have won five straight and 22 of their last 28 games.

Smoltz retired Travis Lee with runners at first and second to
end it, his major league-leading 36th save in 39 opportunities. On
the final play, Smoltz made a nifty catch on a throw by first
baseman Franco.

"John's the only guy in the world that would make that play,''
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "I've said all along that he is
the best athlete in the National League for the last 12 or 13
years.''

Braves starter Jason Marquis (7-5) didn't allow a hit until the
fifth and set a career high for wins. He gave up two runs on two
hits, leaving after 5 1/3 innings and 94 pitches.

"He had had plenty,'' said Cox, who turned the game over to the
best bullpen in the majors. "We're taking care of him.''

Marquis, who missed a month earlier this season with a sore
shoulder, didn't mind Cox's decision.

"I know my pitch count was getting up there,'' he said. "I
also know (Cox) has confidence in me.''

The Phillies had their biggest rally in the sixth, when they cut
a three-run deficit to 4-3. Lee singled, and Bobby Abreu flied out.
Cox lifted Marquis for reliever Kevin Gryboski, who quickly gave up
two hits, including Jeremy Giambi's RBI single, and a walk.

Mike Lieberthal drove in a run with a groundout to make it 4-3.
Chris Hammond took over and retired Jimmy Rollins on an
inning-ending grounder.

Hammond pitched a scoreless seventh, and Kerry Ligtenberg worked
the eighth before Smoltz entered in the ninth.

Marquis received plenty of defensive support, none more
eye-catching than center fielder Andruw Jones' fully extended
diving catch in the third inning. Marlon Anderson appeared to have
an extra-base hit into the left-center gap but was denied when
Jones caught the ball just inches before touching the turf.

"Without him in center field, we probably lose this game,'' Cox
said. "He has the best beat on balls that I've ever seen.''

Lieberthal homered leading off the fifth, his seventh of the
year.

The Braves did all their offensive damage in two innings off
Phillies starter Terry Adams (4-7).

Sheffield extended his streak of reaching base to 46 games when
he singled home Franco in the first inning.

The Braves added three runs in the third. With one out, Rafael
Furcal and Franco singled before Sheffield hit an RBI double into
the left-field corner. After an intentional walk to Chipper Jones,
Andruw Jones, who was 4-for-26 in his career against Adams, smashed
a two-run single off the glove of third baseman Scott Rolen.

Adams managed to escape further trouble when Vinny Castilla
lined into an inning-ending double play.

Adams, whose spot in the rotation has been in jeopardy the last
two weeks, allowed four runs on six hits in six innings. He said he
didn't feel any pressure to impress during the start.

"I tried to keep it out of my mind,'' he said.

Phillies manager Larry Bowa didn't reveal his plans concerning
Adams.

"Randy Wolf is pitching (Sunday), that's all I know,'' Bowa
said. "I'll talk to (general manager) Ed Wade in the morning.
We'll talk about our pitching staff.''

Game notes
The Braves have not lost in 21 straight series. ... Smoltz
is one of two pitchers in major league history with 20 wins in one
season and 30 saves in another. Dennis Eckersley won 20 games for
Boston in 1978 and saved 30 games eight times with Oakland and St.
Louis. ... Marty Bystrom and Larry Christenson, pitchers on
Philadelphia's 1980 championship team, threw out the first pitch.
... Sheffield's streak of reaching base is two shy of the franchise
record set by Dale Murphy in 1987. ... Franco is hitting .371
(23-for-62) in his last 25 games. ... CF Andruw Jones had six
putouts, including three on the warning track.