Braves rally for their fifth straight victory


ATLANTA (AP) -- Even with Greg Maddux struggling, the Atlanta
Braves are headed toward a familiar spot: first place in the NL

Vinny Castilla's two-run double capped a four-run sixth inning
as the Braves rallied for their fifth straight victory, beating the
Philadelphia Phillies 5-4 Friday night.

Atlanta climbed above .500 (9-8) for the first time this season
and within a half-game of the division-leading Montreal Expos,
whose game against Cincinnati was rained out.

"We never panicked," Castilla said. "Yeah, we had a rough
start, but we knew we had great players here and things would turn
around. We're playing better. We're playing the way the Braves have
played the last 11 years."

The Braves, who have won 11 straight division titles, were swept
at home by Montreal to start the season. They turned things around
on the road, winning the last four games of a nine-game trip.

"We were always going to finish up the season," manager Bobby
Cox said sarcastically.

Maddux left trailing 4-1. The four-time Cy Young winner gave up
eight hits and three earned runs in 5 2-3 innings, though he still
managed to lower his ERA from 8.27 to 7.52.

"There was a guy on third every inning, it seemed like,"
Maddux said. "Didn't it? Or was it me? I was in a lot of jams."

The Braves bailed out their starter in the sixth, taking
advantage of some shoddy Phillies defense.

Marcus Giles led off with a grounder to third, but the ball went
right through the legs of Tyler Houston for a two-base error. Gary
Sheffield singled and Chipper Jones walked to load the bases
against Randy Wolf (2-1) with no outs.

The runners held when Andruw Jones popped out to shortstop, but
Julio Franco ended Wolf's night by blooping a single to right,
driving in two runs.

Carlos Silva came out of the bullpen to face Castilla, who lined
a drive to center field. Ricky Ledee played it terribly, taking a
step in, then turning the wrong way as the ball sailed over his
glove for a gift double. Both runners scored to give the Braves
their first lead of the night.

"It was a very tough play," Castilla said. "I hit the ball

Ledee saw it differently.

"It was too close to me," he said. "I just missed it. It
should have been caught."

The Braves bullpen threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings, with John
Smoltz working a perfect ninth -- including two strikeouts -- for his
sixth save in as many opportunities.

"He's pretty automatic," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said.

Bowa isn't surprised by Atlanta's turnaround the past week.

"I don't think you saw any baseball people throwing dirt on the
Braves," he said. "The Braves are still the team to beat in our

Maddux fell behind just two hitters into the game. Jimmy Rollins
hit the second pitch to the wall in right-center for a double, then
David Bell lined a single off Maddux's left foot to make it 1-0.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal bobbled a potential double-play grounder
for an error, setting up Mike Lieberthal's sacrifice fly.

The Braves made it 2-1 in the second on Henry Blanco's two-out,
run-scoring double.

Philadelphia knocked out Maddux in the sixth, loading the bases
with one out to set up Ledee's two-run single to right.

"My mechanics were a little off," Maddux said. "I'm trying to
get them back."

After Wolf sacrificed the runners, Kevin Gryboski (1-1) got out
of the inning by retiring Bell on a groundout. That one out was
enough to earn Gryboski the win.

Wolf allowed five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He was charged with
four earned runs.

Game notes
Maddux and Wolf had similar lines, right down to their
pitch counts. Maddux threw 96 pitches, 62 for strikes. Wolf had 61
strikes among his 97 pitches. ... Sheffield extended his hitting
streak to 15 games with his sixth-inning single, but Furcal's
nine-game streak came to an end. He went 0-for-4. ... LF Chipper
Jones was back in the Braves' starting lineup. He didn't start the
previous two games because of a strained left groin. He did
pinch-hit the previous night against Montreal. ... The Phillies
(9-8) already have won as many games as they did all last April.