Phil Niekro, pitching because scheduled starter Pascual Perez could not find the ballpark, allowed three hits in seven innings and Claudell Washington drove in three runs with a home run, double and single to give the Atlanta Braves a 5-4 victory last night over visiting Montreal. It was only the third time the Braves have won in their last 22 games.
Perez, who got his driver's license earlier yesterday, left home at 4:30 p.m. but did not arrive at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium until just before the 7:40 start.
Perez said he was driving alone for the first time and got lost. Manager Joe Torre was forced to move Niekro up a day in the starting rotation.
Braves General Manager John Mullen said any fine would be up to Torre, but he doubted there would be one. Perez, a Dominican who speaks very little English, said he stopped to ask directions three times but got no help because of the language problem.
He lives within a normal half-hour drive of the stadium.
The Braves trailed, 4-3, entering the seventh, when Montreal starter Scott Sanderson was forced to leave the game because of dizziness.
Atlanta scored the winning runs off Woodie Fryman. After Rafael Ramirez and pinch hitter Terry Harper singled, Jerry Royster brought Ramirez home with a sacrifice fly. Pinch hitter Bob Watson singled to right, sending Harper to third, and Washington's single to right brought in Harper with the go-ahead run.
Niekro (11-3) allowed only three hits as all four Expos runs came on two-run homers, by Gary Carter in the second inning and by Tim Wallach in the fourth. Gene Garber pitched the final two innings for his 21st save.