Atlanta (67-34) at Washington (52-50)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Montreal, QC
Temp: 18° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Fri Jul 25, 2003
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Even the league-best Atlanta Braves have concerns.

The Braves hope to have Andruw Jones back in the lineup when they take the field for the opener of a four-game series with the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium.

Jones was forced to leave Thursday’s 5-2 win over Florida after a fifth-inning at-bat because of a strained left hamstring that has been bothering him all week. He is day-to-day, but there is a chance he’ll be in Friday’s lineup.

“Andruw is really remarkable,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He’ll come up with an injury and he’ll play the next day.”

Since the All-Star break, Jones has hit .406 (13-for-32) with five doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and 12 runs scored. His 25 homers and 71 RBIs both rank second on the team.

“I should be just fine once I get some treatment,” Jones said. “I’m going to play. It’s my job.”

If Jones can’t play, the Braves can always turn to their hottest hitter, Javy Lopez.

The All-Star catcher is in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak in which he is batting .520 (13-for-25). Lopez’s two-run homer in the fourth Thursday put the Braves ahead for good as they won for the 15th time in their last 18.

When asked what he can do to continue his torrid streak, Lopez said, ”(I’ll just) try to keep having fun in the game and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Of his team-high 27 home runs, 19 have been hit at Turner Field.

“I think this is about as hot as I’ve ever seen him,” Cox said of Lopez, who is seven homers away from his career high, set in 1998.

The Expos, who sit six games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL wild-card race, have won two straight following four consecutive losses.

Vladimir Guerrero had a two-run single and Wil Cordero homered as the Expos topped the New York Mets 5-1 on Thursday.

STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Expos - 4th place, 15 1/2 GB, NL East.

BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Horacio Ramirez (8-3, 4.17 ERA). Ramirez is winless in two starts since pitching a four-hitter in a 7-3 victory over the Mets on July 7. The 23-year-old left-hander allowed four earned runs and six hits over 4 2-3 innings against the Mets on Sunday, but escaped without a decision as the Braves rallied for an 11-8 win. He is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in two career starts against Montreal.

EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Claudio Vargas (6-6, 3.55 ERA). Vargas has allowed 13 earned runs over his last 16 innings while losing his last three starts. The rookie right-hander pitched well in a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, allowing two earned runs in 6 1-3 innings. Vargas allowed three earned runs and eight hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 5-4 win over Atlanta on July 3.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Gary Sheffield, .325 avg., 75 RBIs and 79 runs; Lopez, 26 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 14 SBs. Expos - Jose Vidro, .333 avg.; Orlando Cabrera, 13 HRs, 53 RBIs and 64 runs; Endy Chavez, 15 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Braves, 6-4.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - LF Chipper Jones’ single in the fifth was his 898th career RBI, breaking a tie with Hank Aaron for No. 2 on the Atlanta franchise list. Dale Murphy had 1,143. … Both 2B Marcus Giles and SS Furcal are 2-for-4 against RHP Vargas, while CF Andruw Jones has homered off the right-hander. … The Braves are averaging 5.73 runs in RHP Russ Ortiz’s 22 starts this season. Expos - With their win Thursday, the Expos improved to 20-12 at Olympic Stadium. … The Expos have lost 32 of their last 52 after winning 32 of their first 50.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 31-19 on the road; Expos - 30-18 at home.

INJURIES: Braves - RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL. Expos - 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 15-day DL; RHP Zach Day (tendinitis), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Scott Stewart (appendicitis), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

H. Ramirez ChC vs. C. Vargas Tor
12-4 Record 6-8
4.00 ERA 4.34
100 K 62
72 BB 41
1.39 WHIP 1.33