On a broiling, boisterous night at Turner Field, the lights went out, three Braves were ejected and Atlanta was tossed out of first place after the all-star break for the first time in five years.
Paul Byrd pitched seven strong innings and was at the center of a bench-clearing brawl as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Braves, 9-2, last night.
"I'm frustrated with what happened tonight," said Byrd (12-6), a part-time member of the Atlanta pitching staff in 1997 and '98. "You have to understand, I was mistaken for the bat boy here several times, so for all those fans to be yelling at me now, I just started praying."
The Braves, who fell a half-game behind the Mets in the NL East, haven't been out of first this late in the season since July 22, 1994. But their place in the standings was overshadowed by a 16-minute power outage and three heated exchanges on the field.
Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox, starting pitcher John Smoltz and catcher Eddie Perez were ejected in separate incidents during the third and fourth innings. Perez was tossed in the top of the fourth for shoving and then throwing a punch at Byrd, who had hit Perez with a pitch the previous inning. The altercation occurred when Byrd came to bat.
Both benches emptied and a melee ensued, with players on both sides shoving each other. When order was restored, Perez was ejected and replaced by Greg Myers. Perez left the ballpark before the game ended.
In the bottom of the third, Byrd hit Perez with a pitch. Perez motioned to Byrd and both benches emptied but there were no physical altercations. A few minutes later, the stadium went dark. The city-wide outage was caused by an equipment failure at a Georgia Power substation, which was overloaded by high demand because of the hot weather.
ROCKIES 5, CARDINALS 4: Mark McGwire's 495th career homer came in another losing cause. McGwire answered Sammy Sosa with No. 38 to tie for the major league lead, but Terry Shumpert's two-run homer in the eighth won it for visiting Colorado.
METS 10, CUBS 9: New York overcame Sammy Sosa's 38th home run and rallied to win. The temperature at the start of game was 98, and it soared to 102 by the seventh inning on the hottest day of the year in Chicago.
REDS 7, GIANTS 4: Denny Neagle gave up three solo homers -- two by Barry Bonds -- but the Reds used a big first inning and a couple of solo homers to win at home.
MARLINS 8, PIRATES 7: In Pittsburgh, Preston Wilson returned from two days of back treatments and connected for a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth.
BREWERS 1, EXPOS 0: In Milwaukee, rookie Kyle Peterson pitched eight impressive innings for his first major league win and Alex Ochoa homered. The game-time temperature was 97.
ASTROS 5, PADRES 1: Visiting Houston improved to 7-0 against San Diego this season. Shane Reynolds (13-7) held the Padres to an unearned run and five hits in eight innings and struck out nine.
DIAMONDBACKS 6, DODGERS 5: In Los Angeles, Kelly Stinnett and pinch hitter Greg Colbrunn each drove in two runs during a five-run eighth.