Braves 5, Phillies 3

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ATLANTA (AP)—For Javy Lopez, two-homer games are becoming downright routine.

Lopez homered twice for the sixth time this season, hitting both off former teammate Kevin Millwood as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 Tuesday night.

“I’m just trying to hit the ball hard,” said Lopez, whose 23 homers moved him into a tie with Florida’s Mike Lowell and Toronto’s Carlos Delgado for the major league lead. “Wherever it goes.”

Andruw Jones also went deep against Millwood, who lost to the Braves for the second time in less than a week.

Lopez, the leading vote-getter among NL catchers in balloting for the All-Star game, has 19 homers in his last 31 games. In 2002, he batted .233 with only 11 homers.

Braves starter Russ Ortiz, who escaped early trouble to earn the win, said Lopez’s amazing surge is comparable to ex-teammate Barry Bonds.

“Just seeing him not miss those pitches,” Ortiz said. “That’s the big thing with Barry. He doesn’t miss those pitches. Javy isn’t missing those pitches, either. It’s great to watch.”

Millwood (8-6) was traded from Atlanta to Philadelphia during the offseason. He doesn’t agree with the theory that Lopez has an advantage because he caught Millwood for six seasons.

“The gameplan changes every day,” the Phillies pitcher said. “To think he knows what’s coming more than anybody else, I don’t believe it.”

Lopez agreed with that assessment.

“He’s throwing to a different catcher, so he’s like a different pitcher,” Lopez said. “I remember him being a fastball pitcher, a guy who threw about 70 percent fastballs. Ever since he joined Philadelphia, he’s become a breaking ball pitcher.”

Ortiz (9-4) threw 66 pitches in the first three innings, putting himself in constant trouble. The Phillies loaded the bases in each of those innings, but managed only two runs.

“For whatever reason, I’ve always had trouble with the timing of my delivery,” Ortiz said. “Once I figure it out, I’m able to throw what I want to.”

He breezed through the next three innings, retiring nine in a row while needing just 32 pitches. Ortiz wound up pitching 6 1-3 innings, charged with another run in the seventh after Placido Polanco, who led off with a double, scored on Jim Thome’s sacrifice fly against Ray King.

John Smoltz came on to get the final out in the eighth, then overcame a throwing error by shortstop Rafael Furcal in the ninth for his 28th save in 30 chances.

Lopez tied it at 2 in the fifth with his first homer of the night. He lined a 434-foot shot into the center-field bleachers off Millwood’s fastball.

An inning later, the Phillies pitcher retired the first two hitters, but a walk to Chipper Jones turned out to be crucial. On the next pitch, Millwood hung a slider to Andruw Jones, who sent a 408-foot drive over the wall in the center for his 19th homer, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead.

Philadelphia halved the deficit on Thome’s sacrifice fly in the seventh, but Lopez restored the two-run cushion with his second homer of the night. Millwood left another slider up, and Lopez crushed a 396-foot shot into the left-field stands.

Millwood also lost to the Braves last Wednesday, giving up four runs in five innings at Veterans Stadium.

“I don’t think it matters who it is,” he said. “Right now, I’m just not getting the job done.”

Millwood was impressed with Atlanta’s power surge since he left. The Braves lead the majors with 119 homers.

“They’re definitely more dangerous than anytime I was here,” he said. “They have people throughout the lineup. They’re better now than I’ve ever seen them.”

After the Phillies loaded the bases in the first, Pat Burrell nearly hit a grand slam on a drive that had plenty of distance but hooked just wide of the left-field foul pole. Burrell wound up hitting into an inning-ending double play, with first baseman Robert Fick making a diving stop and Ortiz taking the relay throw at first.

“That was the game-winner,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “I told the guys when they came off the field that they had just won the game.”

Philadelphia capitalized in the second, going ahead 2-1 on Jimmy Rollins’ two-out, two-run single. But Ortiz escaped a third-inning mess, striking out Millwood with the bases full.

Millwood got plenty of help from his defense.

Phillies right fielder Bobby Abreu made a brilliant catch in the second, leaping over the wall to rob Fick of a two-run homer. Burrell leaped againstthe left-field wall to haul in a drive by Chipper Jones in the fourth.

Notes

Millwood was applauded by the Turner Field crowd when he batted the first time—in contrast to the boos that greeted former Brave Tom Glavine in his return to Atlanta. … The Braves are 19-2 when Andruw Jones hits a homer. … Marcus Giles, mired in a 1-for-32 slump, doubled in the first and scored Atlanta’s first run on a grounder by Gary Sheffield. … The Phillies havescored only eight runs in Millwood’s six losses.

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