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NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP

Braves Follow the Bouncing Ball to Victory

September 21, 1996|From Associated Press

Javy Lopez got a reminder Friday night that it doesn't take hard-hit balls to win games.

Lopez bounced a two-out single up the middle in the eighth inning to break a tie as the Braves defeated the Montreal Expos, 3-2, at Atlanta, reducing the Braves' magic number to four.

Lopez also drove in a run with a high chopper in the fourth inning.

"It may have bounced 20 times, but I found the right spot through the middle," Lopez said. "I hit the ball a total of 160 feet and got two RBIs. Tomorrow, I'll hit two doubles to the fence and won't get an RBI. In baseball, you take what you can get and don't apologize."

Atlanta, closing in on its fifth consecutive postseason appearance, has a six-game lead over Montreal in the East. The Expos fell one game behind the Padres in the wild-card race.

With the score 2-2, Fred McGriff doubled off Dave Leiper (2-1) and Ryan Klesko sacrificed. Reliever Jeff Juden struck out Terry Pendleton and Lopez followed with a single up the middle.

Atlanta, which has won five of six, stopped Montreal's three-game winning streak.

"They make two good pitches and we get two runs," Manager Bobby Cox said. "Lopez hits a chopper to third and a 22-hopper to center. That's baseball."

There are three games remaining in this series with the Expos, and the Braves end the regular season with a three-game series in Montreal next weekend.

San Francisco 6, Colorado 2--Barry Bonds hit his 42nd home run, one of three hit by the Giants at San Francisco.

Bonds, Rick Wilkins and Glenallen Hill homered off Mark Thompson (8-11) as the Rockies fell seven games behind wild-card leader San Diego with seven to play.

Cincinnati 4, St. Louis 2--Jeff Brantley set a Cincinnati record with his 40th save and the defending Central champion Reds avoided elimination at Cincinnati.

The Reds would be eliminated from the race by any loss during the four-game series with the Cardinals. The two teams play seven times during the final 10 days of the season.

The Cardinals have lost only two of seven games against the Reds this season, both behind Alan Benes (13-10). His throwing error set up the Reds' two-run rally in the seventh inning.

Dave Burba (10-13) gave up two runs on six hits over seven innings, Jeff Shaw pitched the eighth, and Brantley got the final three outs to become the first Red pitcher with 40 saves. John Franco saved 39 in 1988.

Florida 3, Houston 1--The Astros were eliminated from wild-card contention at Miami.

Houston still has an outside chance of overtaking the Cardinals for the division title.

Kevin Brown (16-11) outdueled Shane Reynolds, giving up four hits and one run in seven innings to lower his major league-leading earned-run average from 1.97 to 1.95.

Reynolds (16-10), who had an 0-4 career mark (11.07 ERA) against the Marlins, gave up four singles and one earned run in six innings.

Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 4--Jay Bell hit a two-run home run at Pittsburgh and the Pirates won their ninth game in a row.

Bell's 11th homer came in the second inning off Kevin Foster (7-5) as the Cubs lost their sixth consecutive game.

New York 5, Philadelphia 2--Paul Wilson's first home run broke a tie at Philadelphia and gave him his first victory since July 20.

Wilson (5-12) gave up five hits in eight innings. The only runs he gave up came on Gene Schall's two-run homer in the fourth inning.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NL Playoff Race at a Glance

DIVISION *--*

WEST W L Pct. GB Dodgers 87 67 .565 -- San Diego 87 68 .561 1/2 CENTRAL W L Pct. GB St. Louis 83 71 .539 -- Houston 78 76 .506 5 EAST W L Pct. GB Atlanta 91 62 .595 -- Montreal 85 68 .556 6 WILD CARD TEAM W L Pct. GB San Diego 87 68 .561 -- Montreal 85 68 .556 1 Colorado 80 75 .516 7

*--*

One wild-card team qualifies for the playoffs.

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