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In a pinch

Bellinger rings loud as Yankees best Braves

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Posted: Sunday June 04, 2000 06:10 PM

  Clay Bellinger Clay Bellinger hit a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning to give the Yankees a 7-6 victory over the Braves on Sunday. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- The New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves gave a tantalizing glimpse of what might be coming in October.

Clay Bellinger hit a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning to give the Yankees a 7-6 victory over the Braves on Sunday, the second straight wild game between the teams that have met in two of the last four World Series.

Atlanta, which was swept by the Yankees last fall, held on for an 11-7 victory Saturday that ended with Shane Spencer's attempt for a tying grand slam being caught at the edge of the left-field wall. The Yankees won the opener of the three-game series, 5-2.

"I think we're gaining on them," said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who drove in two runs. "But they're still the elite team in baseball right now."

New York held on in the finale when Mariano Rivera struck out Andres Galarraga with runners on first and third to end the game.

"The postseason is a different story," said Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, who got the win despite allowing six runs in six innings. "You like to win any series, but it's a long time to the postseason."

In the top of the ninth, John Rocker pitched a scoreless inning for Atlanta after a confrontation before the game with the Sports Illustrated reporter who wrote the article that led to Rocker's two-week suspension for insensitive comments.

The Braves said they were investigating. Rocker declined comment.

"Obviously, he still has issues with the guy," Jones said. "Maybe the right thing to do would have been to walk away. But I haven't seen John back down from a conflict yet."

For the second day in a row, New York pounded the Braves' starting pitcher for 13 hits. This time, it came against Terry Mulholland, eclipsing his previous career high of 12 hits allowed while pitching for San Francisco in 1995.

"We needed that," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, still disgusted about the team's four-error performance Saturday. "We wanted to play more like we're capable of playing. We won two in this series and should have won three."

Trying to rest his bullpen, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox allowed Mulholland to bat for himself in the sixth after the Braves tied the game 6-6 on consecutive homers by Javy Lopez and Reggie Sanders.

Mulholland (5-5) retired the first two hitters in the seventh, then hung an 0-1 fastball to Bellinger, who sent the ball deep into the left-field seats for his fourth homer of the season.

"I tried not to smile," Bellinger said. "But in the dugout, with all the high-fives, I let out a couple of smiles."

Mulholland had the opposite reaction. The left-hander, who rarely shows emotion, yelled in anger and hopped off the mound as soon as Bellinger connected with the Yankees' first pinch-hit homer since Spencer did it against Toronto on May 29, 1999.

"I wasn't real happy about that one ... especially with the way we fought back to tie up the game," Mulholland said. "Obviously, Clay Bellinger liked it."

The Braves, who trailed virtually the entire game, finally caught the Yankees in the sixth. Lopez led off with a homer into the left-field stands against Pettitte (5-2), and the slumping Sanders followed with his first homer since joining the Braves in an offseason trade.

Sanders, hitting only .152, jumped in the air and pumped his fist several times after the opposite-field drive settled into the first row of the right-field stands.

The Yankees jumped on Mulholland for three runs in the first, mirroring their quick start a day earlier in which they had four hits and two runs before Greg Maddux got an out.

Chuck Knoblauch worked for a 10-pitch walk, Jeter singled and Bernie Williams followed with an RBI single. Felix Jose had a sacrifice fly and Tino Martinez made it 3-0 with a double to right.

The Yankees built their lead to 4-0 in the third on Martinez's second straight run-scoring double before the Braves began a streak of four straight scoring innings against Pettitte.

In the third, Andruw Jones had an RBI single and Chipper Jones added a sacrifice fly. Lopez had a run-scoring single in the fourth. Chipper Jones picked up his second RBI in the fifth with a double into the left-field corner. Lopez and Sanders had the back-to-back homers in the sixth.

But the Braves never could get ahead of New York. Spencer had a run-scoring single in the fourth and Scott Brosius homered off the left-field pole the following inning.

Rivera pitched two scoreless innings for his 14th save.

Notes: Pettitte won his third straight decision. ... The Braves have hit back-to-back homers three times this season. ... Sanders' homer was his first since Sept. 26, when he was playing for San Diego in a game at Los Angeles. ... The Braves sold out all three games of the series after managing only two sellouts in their first 24 home games. The crowd of 47,756 raised Atlanta's season attendance to 1,022,725. ... Switch-hitter Bobby Bonilla batted right-handed against the right-handed Rivera in the eighth.


 
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