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Braves Sweep Reeling Giants : Baseball: They cut deficit to 4 1/2 games, then try to acquire Martinez.


SAN FRANCISCO — The Atlanta Braves dealt the San Francisco Giants another series of blows Wednesday--on and off the field.

They collected 16 hits, including six home runs, in a 9-1 rout that completed the season's-first series sweep of the Giants and put the Braves within 4 1/2 games of the division leaders in the National League West.

Then, Atlanta used the waiver wire to prevent San Francisco from obtaining Dennis Martinez as a possible solution to the Giants' pitching concerns.

"We've given the Giants something to think about," Ron Gant said, referring to the sweep. "If they didn't know we were still capable of winning the whole thing, they do now. The pressure is on them. This was big."

The Giants, of course, have plenty to think about.

Will Clark, for instance, joined center fielder Darren Lewis and starting pitchers Bud Black and Trevor Wilson on the 15-day disabled list because of a knee injury; and 17-game winner Bill Swift was unable to salvage the series finale.

Then, in details that filtered out while the Braves were flying back to Georgia, it was learned that they have traded first baseman-outfielder Brian Hunter for Martinez, the 38-year-old Montreal Expo pitcher.

Martinez has until 11 a.m. today to approve it, and is seeking financial remuneration--Rickey Henderson recently got $300,000--from either the Expos or Braves in exchange for that approval as a 10-year veteran who has spent the last five years with the same club.

Martinez is also eligible for free agency when the season ends. The Expos, unwilling to pay his price, have been exploring ways to move Martinez and get something more than draft choices in return.

The Braves, Giants and Philadelphia Phillies all claimed him during the current waiver period, and the Braves got first call because they have the poorest record of the three.

"You can take it to the bank," San Francisco General Manager Bob Quinn said when asked if Atlanta's primary motive was to prevent the Giants from acquiring Martinez.

"They don't want to see us get any stronger," Quinn said. "We have a stronger need than either the Braves or Phillies."

The Braves, leading the league in team earned-run average, would not seem to have any needs, but they lack a reliable fifth starter, and they would also be eligible for amateur draft compensation if Martinez does nothing more for them than leave as a free agent.

"This enhances what they already have," Quinn said. "You're talking about a guy with a world of talent. They can slip him in as a fifth starter or whenever one of their big four needs a rest. There was nothing we could do to prevent it."

There was nothing Swift could do to stop Wednesday's onslaught. The numbers were bad enough, but Swift heightened the pitching concerns by saying he was working with a tired arm after a career high 184 2/3 innings. He had no sink to his sinker, giving up 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Fred McGriff and David Justice hit consecutive home runs in the first, and did it again in the fifth. Dave Righetti gave up a homer to Terry Pendleton in the seventh, and Rod Beck was victimized by Damon Berryhill in the ninth.

It was a token appearance for Beck, the Giants' closer. Atlanta never trailed in any of the three games.

"That was important," second-game winner Tom Glavine said. "Give this pitching staff a lead and it generally won't let go."

Greg Maddux led, 3-0, before throwing a pitch. He scattered six hits over eight innings and has won eight of his last nine decisions for a 15-9 record and a 2.58 earned-run average.

"They jumped on us right away," San Francisco Manager Dusty Baker said. "It was like we were never in the game.

"I mean, they were just better than us in these three games. We have to go to Atlanta next week and reverse it."

The Giants led the Braves by 10 games on June 22, but Baker insisted his team hasn't been cruising.

"We knew Atlanta would make another run," he said. "They have a quality team. You just hate to have it happen head to head, but we ran into a buzz saw here. We have to regroup in Florida, but our confidence is fine, we have plenty of fight left."

Baker said it before Clark, forced out after the fifth inning, was put on the Giants' growing disabled list, but the bravado was echoed by relief pitcher Jeff Brantley, who said of the sweep:

"This might be the wake-up call we've needed. This might remind us we're in a pennant race and need to get our butts in gear."

The Giants have 35 games left, the Braves 34. Said Atlanta reliever Jay Howell: "What we did here just makes the next series (with the Giants) more interesting. We put some heat on them, but there's a month to go. We have to maintain an incredible pace to catch them, and we know it."

The Braves have won 14 of their last 16, are 29-10 since the All-Star break and have a remarkable road record of 44-24. They are also averaging more than five runs per game since the acquisition of McGriff, whose 29th and 30 homers enabled him to become the 12th player to hit 30 or more in six consecutive seasons.

Gant and Justice, batting ahead and behind McGriff, have a respective 31 and 32.

"Pitchers now have to re-evaluate how they pitch us," Gant said. "We have a powerful lineup with McGriff. There's no one to pitch around. He's helped make it easier for all of us."

Even the pitchers.

"We're a lot more relaxed because we know we'll get a lot of runs," Glavine said. "We know that if we hold the other team to three runs, we'll win nine of every 10."

The Braves held the Giants and their league-best offense to eight and won three of three, a 1993 first.

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