Posted: Thursday October 14, 1999 02:05 AM
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The house again was not full, but the Atlanta Braves played up to capacity to take a comfortable lead in the National League Championship Series.
Brian Jordan and Eddie Perez hit two-run homers in the sixth inning as the Braves edged the New York Mets, 4-3, and took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Kevin Millwood (2-0) held the Mets in check to win his second straight postseason start, allowing three runs -- two earned -- over 7 1/3 innings.
John Rocker worked out of a jam in the eighth by striking out two, but after pitching 1 1/3 innings in Game One, manager Bobby Cox turned to Game Four starter John Smoltz for the ninth.
In his first career relief appearance, Smoltz retired the side in order, striking out two, including pinch-hitter Bobby Bonilla to end the game.
"That was unbelievable. I was just glad to chip in," Smoltz said. "The first two games, I didn't know what was going to happen. Today I felt I could go an inning and the opportunity arose."
The attendance at Turner Field was 44,624, again several thousand short of capacity, but a full house will be expected when the series resumes Friday night at Shea Stadium.
"Its better than going down 0-2," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Each one of theses games is filled with so much pressure. "You're still trying to win one game at a time and that's all we're going to do."
Melvin Mora homered for the Mets, who lost for the 15th time in their last 16 games at Turner Field. New York nearly had another home run, but Roger Cedeno's blast was just outside the right-field foul pole in the fourth inning before he struck out.
John Olerud, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura -- the Mets' 3-5 hitters -- were hitless in 10 at-bats and are a combined 1-for-21 in the series.
The Braves, who have won 20 of the last 26 meetings with New York, waited patiently for Kenny Rogers' postseason failure to surface, and it came in the sixth.
Chipper Jones walked with one out and Jordan sliced a 1-0 pitch off the screen on the right-field foul pole for a two-run homer.
Andruw Jones kept up the pressure with a single to left field. Mets manager Bobby Valentine decided to stay with the lefthander against the righthanded Eddie Perez and it cost him dearly as Perez followed by blasting a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence for a 4-2 lead. It was the second homer in as many days for Perez, who had only seven in the regular season.
Afterwards, Valentine admitted he let Rogers pitch too long.
"I had my reason for that, but it was just not the right move to do," Valentine said. "There were things that went through my mind, but it was just the wrong decision. It doesn't make any difference what I thought about it, it was just the wrong move."
In six career postseason games, Rogers (0-2) has surrendered 19 runs over 16 2/3 innings. Nowhere was it worse than Atlanta, where he allowed five runs in two innings for the New York Yankees in Game Four of the 1996 World Series.
"The only pitch I want to take back was the one to Andruw Jones," Rogers said. "I didn't know he was going to let me in that long, but I still have to make good pitches. I don't feel bad (about my performance). I'm not embarrassed by it."
Millwood (1-0) allowed just one hit in his Division Series win over Houston, but the Mets tripled that total in the first two innings. He allowed a single in the first and the Mets put together a run in the second on a walk to Robin Ventura and singles by Darryl Hamilton and Cedeno.
"By far I didn't have my best stuff today but I kept telling myself to keep us in the ballgame and to give us a chance," Millwood said. "The longer the game went on, the better I felt and the better my pitches got."
Despite having runners on first and third, the Mets had to settle for one run, and it ultimately cost them the game. Rey Ordonez failed to sacrifice, popping a bunt to first base.
Rogers moved up Cedeno with a sacrifice before Rickey Henderson grounded out to end the inning. Henderson might have been able to beat the throw but was bothered by nausea and the flu and was unable to do more than jog down the line.
Henderson was removed in the bottom of the inning in favor of Mora, who gave the Mets a 2-0 lead with a two-out homer to left field in the fifth. Mora homered in his first official postseason at-bat after failing to homer in 66 at-bats during his rookie campaign.
Millwood, who allowed five hits with a walk and four strikeouts, kept the Mets in check before tiring in the eighth.
Mora reached on an error by third baseman Chipper Jones and scored on a double to left-center field by Edgardo Alfonzo, chasing Millwood.
The volatile Rocker badly fooled Olerud, striking him out with the first baseman's bat landing at first base. Rocker then fanned Robin Ventura to end New York's last threat.
"I had my mind made up. Rock would pitch one inning or part of an inning today and that's it," said Cox, who is not afraid to use his starters in a relief role in postseason play.
Greg Maddux and Millwood were used in relief last week In Game Three against Houston.
Rogers allowed hits in every inning but worked out of jams until the sixth. He picked off runners in each of the first two innings, getting Gerald Williams after a leadoff single in the first and Andruw Jones after a one-out single in the second. Rogers walked Millwood to open the third, but he was erased on a double play.