Glenn Hubbard and Bruce Benedict each had three hits yesterday in Atlanta to pace a 13-hit attack in a 7-1 victory over Los Angeles that moved the second-place Braves to within 3 1/2 games of the Dodgers in the National League West.
With right-hander Craig McMur-try blanking the Dodgers over the first five innings, the Braves jumped quickly ahead when Brett Butler led off the bottom of the first with his fifth home run and then kept padding their lead.
"I think we've got a real good chance," Butler said. "If we play like we did today, we're going to win eight in a row."
"You just can't afford to lose," Manager Joe Torre said. "I'd much rather be on the other side right now, but a club is capable of a winning streak and a club is capable of a losing streak.
"After Friday we were five out (loss column) with 10 to play. Now it's three out, eight to play. That's two giant steps."
"It would have been a lot easier if we had won one of these last two," Dodgers Manager Tom Lasorda said. "We've got to go out there and win some ball games."
The Braves widened their lead to 3-0 off loser Alejandro Pena (12-8) in the third when, after Hubbard and Claudell Washington led off with back-to-back singles, Rafael Ramirez hit a two-out, two-run single.
The Braves made it 6-0 in the fifth when Benedict doubled home one run and Hubbard singled home two. Chris Chambliss led off with a single and scored on Benedict's double. Randy Johnson and Butler walked to load the bases and Hubbard then singled to score Benedict and Johnson. McMurtry (15-8) helped his own cause by singling home Benedict in the seventh inning.
The Dodgers, who now need a combination of five victories or Braves' defeats to clinch the division, got their run in the top of the sixth when Dusty Baker was safe on an error by Ramirez, moved to second on a single by Pedro Guerrero and scored on a single by Mike Marshall.