Braves take sole possession of first
07/26/2005 10:19 PM ET
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA — Everything seemed to be going according to the script usually used for a key divisional matchup. Two All-Star starters provided impressive performances, and the offenses did whatever they could to be recognized.
Fortunately for the Braves, the final scene involved them claiming a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Nationals in front of a raucous and sold-out crowd at Turner Field on Tuesday night.
Andruw Jones drew a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk off Luis Ayala that allowed pinch-runner Jeff Francoeur to casually stroll home with the winning run amid the loud cheers of a home crowd that got to enjoy the fact that their Braves had finally overtaken the Nationals and assumed sole possession of first place for the first time since June 4.
Whereas the Braves were able to do little damage against Livan Hernandez, they had little problem with All-Star closer Chad Cordero, who suffered just his fourth blown save in 38 chances. Andruw Jones opened the ninth with a double off Cordero, advanced to third on a Chipper Jones single and scored on Adam LaRoche’s sacrifice fly.
LaRoche’s two-out, seventh-inning homer had proved to be the Braves’ only offense against Hernandez, who allowed just the one run and four hits in eight innings. The late comeback simply extended the woes of the veteran right-hander, who had been 0-10 with a 6.91 ERA in his previous 12 regular-season starts against the Braves.
Smoltz, who is 7-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his past nine starts, allowed just two runs on eight hits in eight innings. He retired eight of the final nine batters he faced and made sure that this battle between All-Star pitchers lived up to its hype.
Brad Wilkerson, who had three hits and made an acrobatic catch that robbed Chipper Jones of a seventh-inning homer, provided a two-out RBI single in the third inning and a fifth-inning single that put Hernandez in position to score the other run charged to Smoltz.