Braves 11, Mets 8

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ATLANTA (AP)—Javy Lopez was sad to see the New York Mets leave town.

Lopez’s pinch-hit, three-run homer keyed an eight-run rally in the eighth inning and the Atlanta Braves beat New York 11-8 Sunday to finish a four-game sweep.

“This was pretty much as good as it gets,” he said. “You dream about getting those kinds of chances.”

Pinch-hitter Marcus Giles drove in the go-ahead run as Atlanta got nine hits in the eighth to complete a stirring comeback.

“Javy had the hit that gave us a big lift,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He was pretty rested after Henry (Blanco) got the start, so he was ready to go.”

Lopez’s fifth career pinch-hit homer was his 24th this year and first since June 24 against Philadelphia. In 29 at-bats against the Mets this season, Lopez is batting .448 with three homers and 11 RBIs. He has a .292 average, 21 homers and 56 RBIs in 322 career at-bats against New York.

Darren Bragg and Mark DeRosa each had RBI singles in the eighth for the Braves, who earned their first four-game sweep of the Mets since moving to Atlanta in 1966.

The Braves, winners of five straight, are 13-1 since July 3 and have the best record through 97 games, 65-32, in franchise history. Atlanta’s 1998 team went 64-32 before losing its 97th game.

New York, which traded Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz and Armando Benitez in the past three weeks, has dropped 10 of 11.

“That three-run homer really picked them up,” Mets manager Art Howe said. “Then everything they hit found holes. All hell broke loose.”

New York reliever Edwin Almonte was handed an 8-3 lead to begin the eighth, but he allowed consecutive singles to Vinny Castilla, Blanco and Bragg before Howe brought in Mike Stanton (2-4).

Lopez hit Stanton’s 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence to make it 8-7. Rafael Furcal reached on a bunt single and advanced to third when Stanton’s wild throw to first went into right field for an error. After DeRosa drove in Furcal to make it 8-8, Gary Sheffield flied out before Andruw Jones’ single moved DeRosa to second.

Giles, batting for pitcher Ray King (3-0), singled to left to drive in DeRosa for a 9-8 lead. Castilla’s fielder’s choice made it 10-8 when second baseman Rey Sanchez booted the grounder for an error that scored Jones.

“I was just trying to keep the ball in the middle of the field and don’t try to hit it out of the park,” Giles said. “I tend to get in a little bit of trouble when I overswing. I was just trying to stay nice and easy and stay within myself.”

Stanton was pulled for Pedro Feliciano, who allowed Blanco’s RBI single that ended the scoring. Stanton allowed five hits and five runs—four earned—in one-third of an inning.

“My thought the whole time was to try to get a groundball to get a double play and get out of the inning after the home run,” Stanton said. “I got a couple groundballs—they just found holes.”

John Smoltz pitched the ninth for his 36th save in 38 chances.

The eighth-inning meltdown spoiled a solid start by New York’s Al Leiter, who came off the disabled list before the game.

Making his first start since going on the DL on July 7 with an inflamed right knee, Leiter allowed three hits and two runs in five innings. Two of his four walks were intentional, and the left-hander struck out five.

“I kept thinking something good was going to happen before they got six runs,” Leiter said. “Once in a while, you’re going to have a tough game like that.”

Atlanta starter Horacio Ramirez was chased with two outs in the fifth after the Mets scored three runs to take a 5-2 lead. Bad fielding hurt the rookie left-hander, who added to his trouble by scooping up Leiter’s sacrifice bunt and pulling DeRosa off first with an errant throw that loaded the bases with none out.

Jeff Duncan hit a two-run single, and Ty Wigginton added an RBI single.

Mets reliever David Weathers hit Robert Fick with a pitch to force in a run in the sixth.

Jason Phillips made it 6-3 when he led off the eighth with his sixth homer. New York added two more runs off Jung Bong on Jose Reyes’ RBI single and Duncan’s bases-loaded walk.

Leiter led 2-0 in the fourth before allowing Castilla’s sacrifice fly and Blanco’s RBI double.

Reyes hit a two-run double in the third.

Notes

Mets 1B Tony Clark, who struck out in all four at-bats Saturday, went 2-for-3 with three runs. … New York sent infielder Jorge Velandia back toTriple-A Norfolk to make room for Leiter.

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