Atlanta’s usually reliable bullpen isn’t getting job the done in this series. In fact, it’s been downright awful.
Hoping to avoid dropping their first series in nearly a month, the major league-leading Braves hope for a better effort from their relievers as they complete a four-game set with the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium.
In the first three games of this series, the Braves pitching staff has allowed 31 runs, with 22 coming after their starters had departed.
The Expos erased a six-run, eighth-inning deficit on Friday for a 9-8 victory, and scored nine runs in their final three at-bats to post another come-from-behind 13-10 victory Sunday.
The Braves are 4-0-2 in their last six series since dropping two of three at Florida from June 30-July 2.
“We’ve got a great ballclub,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “We’re hitting it, catching it, and we can pitch it, too. We just haven’t this series much.”
The Braves have won just once in this series—Saturday’s 14-5 rout— despite putting up 33 runs and 52 hits.
“It’s amazing,” added Cox, whose team has lost four of seven overall. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Robert Fick matched career highs with four hits and two homers for Atlanta on Sunday, and Marcus Giles doubled in each of his first four at-bats to become the first major leaguer to do so since Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1997.
Guerrero, who returned from a herniated disc last Monday, was rested. Vidro missed his fourth start in five games because of a strained right knee.
“That’s what the team is made of,” Cordero said.
STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Expos - 4th place, 14 1/2 GB, NL East.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Mike Hampton (6-5, 4.54 ERA). Hampton is 3-0 over his last four starts despite a 4.16 ERA over that span. The Braves have scored 31 runs behind the left-hander in those outings. Hampton gave up our runs and a season high-tying 11 hits in Atlanta’s 5-4, 12-inning home loss to Florida on Wednesday. The left-hander posted a 7-5 victory over the Expos in Atlanta on July 6, improving to 6-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 11 career games, including eight starts, against Montreal.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Javier Vazquez (8-6, 3.67 ERA). Vazquez has won his last two starts, allowing three earned runs and 15 hits over 17 innings for a 1.59 ERA. The right-hander has also struck out 18 and issued just one walk over that stretch. In a 5-2 victory over the New York Mets on Wednesday, he struck out 11 and gave up two earned runs and six hits over eight strong innings. Vazquez is 1-0 with an 0.84 ERA in two starts against Atlanta this season. In 16 career starts against the Braves, the 27-year-old Puerto Rican is 6-7 with a 3.21 ERA.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 7-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - Prior to this series, the Braves were 52-1 when leading after seven innings. … Atlanta’s relievers have posted a 4.17 ERA this season after setting a team record with a 2.60 mark in 2002. … 2B Giles is batting .471 (16-for-34) during an eight-game hitting streak with a homer, six doubles and six RBIs. Expos - SS Cabrera tied Cordero’s team record for home runs by a shortstop, set in 1994. … RHP Vazquez is second in the NL with 157 strikeouts. He is 5-1 with a 3.70 ERA at home this season. … Manager Frank Robinson said that C Michael Barrett will be out at least five to seven days because of a right hip flexor strain.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 32-21 on the road; Expos - 32-19 at home. INJURIES: Braves - RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL. Expos - 2B Vidro (knee), day-to-day; 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 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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