While Atlanta keeps losing, the Phillies keep winning.
Pennant race, anyone?
"Other than the one guy I heard yell that I was an idiot during a pitching change, the only thing I heard all night was my stomach girdling," Philadelphia Manager Terry Francona said yesterday after his team's 4-3 win over the suddenly vulnerable Braves.
Bobby Abreu hit a go-ahead single in the seventh inning as Philadelphia overcame a two-run deficit and sent the Braves to their sixth loss in eight games.
"It was an exciting game and this is an exciting team," Francona said.
Abreu was 3 for 3 with a walk and two RBI as the Phillies pulled within 4 1/2 games of Atlanta, whose lead over the Mets in the NL East was cut to a half-game.
Philadelphia trailed 3-0 in the sixth before Abreu's RBI single off John Smoltz. That came after Smoltz got upset when plate umpire Bruce Froemming called a ball on an 0-2 pitch to Ron Gant and Gant followed with a single.
Braves manager Bobby Cox came out to argue and was ejected for the seventh time this season.
"It cost us a win; it cost Smoltz a win," said Cox, ejected five times in a four-week span. "It was a strike."
METS 2, CUBS 1: Rookie Octavio Dotel struck out nine in 7 1/3 strong innings and Robin Ventura's tiebreaking homer gave New York the victory at home.
Edgardo Alfonzo went 3 for 4 and homered for the Mets, who have won four straight.
Dotel (3-1) gave up only Sammy Sosa's major league-leading 36th home run in the third inning. He allowed five hits and two walks before striking out Sosa with a runner on second and giving way to Dennis Cook in the eighth.
Ventura snapped a 1-all tie when he led off the sixth with his 18th homer, off Cubs starter Steve Trachsel (3-14), who has just one win in his last 13 decisions.
Armando Benitez pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 14 chances.
ASTROS 5, PADRES 2: Chris Holt pitched seven strong innings and Jeff Bagwell had three hits, including a run-scoring double, to lead host Houston.
Holt (2-9) had won just once in his first 15 starts, including six no-decisions. He didn't allow a hit through the first four innings and carried a shutout into the sixth to extend his string of consecutive scoreless innings to 14 2/3. Billy Wagner struck out the side in the ninth for his 25th save in 27 opportunities.
REDS 7, GIANTS 6: Dmitri Young hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the ninth inning off closer Robb Nen and Cincinnati rallied past host San Francisco.
Scott Williamson (9-4) picked up the win by pitching two hitless innings, tying Wayne Granger's 1969 franchise record for relief wins in a season. The Reds beat the Giants for the first time in five tries this season.
The Reds also withstood a two-homer, four-RBI effort by Ellis Burks.
Marvin Benard homered off Dennis Reyes to lead off the ninth. One out later, Reyes hit Barry Bonds with a pitch. Danny Graves relieved and got the final two outs on a double play for his 15th save.
CARDINALS 10, ROCKIES 2: Kent Mercker might be the only pitcher in baseball who likes Coors Field.
Mercker pitched six shutout innings and improved to 8-2 career against Colorado, as St. Louis beat the Rockies for their third straight victory.
"I didn't know that, but I will take anything positive out of pitching in Denver," said Mercker, who has 2.68 ERA in 26 2/3 innings pitched in Colorado. "My ERA is 10 everywhere else. I probably concentrate more at keeping the ball down here."
David Howard went 3 for 5 with three RBI. J.D. Drew drove in two runs with a single and a solo home run and Alberto Castillo had three hits and two RBI to back Mercker.
Mark McGwire, whose 34 homers are two short of major league leader Sosa, went 0 for 5.
PIRATES 7, EXPOS 2: Montreal, unable to find the handle, simply handed the game to Pittsburgh, as the Pirates scored all of their runs with the help of Expos' errors.
Abraham Nunez's two-run single in the fourth capped a three-run inning as the Pirates stopped a season-high five-game losing streak and won for just the fifth time in 14 games.
The Pirates scored three unearned runs off Jeremy Powell (0-2) in the fourth en route to their victory. The Expos lead the NL with 95 errors.
"You've got to catch the ball," Pirates catcher Joe Oliver said. "You've got to make the plays because if you give teams extra outs it's going to come back to haunt you, especially at this level."
A crowd of 13,396 was on hand at Olympic Stadium as Expos Manager Felipe Alou tied Gene Mauch's team record of 1,126 games managed. The Expos, with the worst record in the majors at 35-59, lost for the 15th time in their last 20 games, including 10 of their last 12.
MARLINS 4, BREWERS 1: There's no question who's the MVP for the Marlins these days: Dave Berg.
Berg, a utility player, had a single and pair of doubles to lead Florida over Milwaukee in Miami. Berg, who is hitting .293 and can play every position except catcher and pitcher, was instrumental in three of Florida's four runs.
"Berg is so valuable and dependable and is such a good hitter, I wouldn't trade him for any utility player in the league," said Marlins Manager John Boles. "The guy does everything for us."
ARIZONA 3, DODGERS 0: Steve Finley's two-run home run -- his 19th of the season -- provided more than enough runs for Phoenix starter Brian Anderson, who shut out visiting Los Angeles over eight innings. Matt Mantei earned his 15th save. Darren Dreifert (8-9) took the loss for Los Angeles.