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Updated: Friday, August 6, 2004 1:39 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
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ATLANTA 6, HOUSTON 5
 

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The Houston Astros were down to their last reliever and the Atlanta Braves took full advantage.

Marcus Giles lifted a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning, leading the Braves to a 6-5 victory over the Astros.

Houston starter Darren Oliver had to leave the game after just one inning with tightness in his left shoulder, forcing interim manager Phil Garner to rely on his bullpen the rest of the way.

Kirk Bullinger and Chad Harville did an admirable job, combining to allow just an unearned run and three hits in four innings. But with the Astros owning a 5-1 lead in the sixth, lefthander Mike Gallo and David Weathers teamed up squander the advantage, yielding four runs and four hits in the inning.

"I just know this ballpark," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "You're never out of it. Things can happen no matter what the score."

"It's pretty unbelievable," Atlanta's Chipper Jones added. "These guys, even when we're down 5-1, we bounce right back. Oliver going out early kind of screwed up our lineup, but when they went back to Gallo, the righthanded guys took advantage of that and got things going."

After closer Brad Lidge was used to record four outs, Garner turned to Dan Miceli (4-6), who struck out Nick Green to open the ninth. But J.D. Drew singled and Chipper Jones followed with a double, forcing Miceli to intentionally walk Andruw Jones to load the bases and allow for a forceout at the plate.

Hitting for pitcher Juan Cruz , Giles lifted a 1-0 offering into right field, allowing Drew to race home and giving the Braves a 6-5 lead.

"We managed the bullpen pretty well, we just didn't stop them," Garner said. "We made some bad pitches and didn't get them out. On the flip side, we didn't get our guys home."

Cruz (4-0) got the win after tossing a scoreless eighth and John Smoltz worked around a hit in the ninth for his 27th save in 29 chances.

Eli Marrero homered and Chipper Jones added three hits for Atlanta, which has won seven of its last eight games and improved to 28-9 since a three-game losing streak from June 20-23.

"Chipper looked good," Cox said. "His timing was really good. He looked like the old Chip. He's been tinkering with his mechanics."

"I'm starting to solidify my mechanics and it's starting to pay dividends," said Chipper Jones , who is hitting .314 (22-for-70) since the All-Star break. "I got pitches to hit tonight and I didn't miss them."

Carlos Beltran gave the Astros an early lead, snapping an 0-for-12 slide with a solo homer in the first inning. But Atlanta drew even in the second when shortstop Adam Everett botched a grounder by Marrero with two outs, allowing Andruw Jones to score.

Everett atoned for his error with a two-run single in the fourth and Houston stretched its lead to 5-1 in the fifth on Brad Ausmus ' RBI infield single and a bases-loaded walk to Craig Biggio .

But the Braves battled back in the sixth as Julio Franco plated a pair with a double and Marrero greeted Weathers with a two-run blast to left, tying the game.

Atlanta starter Mike Hampton had his shortest outing since June 2, allowing five runs and seven hits in just 4 1/3 innings. The lefthander, who had won his previous five starts, issued six of the Braves' season-high nine walks.

"I put us in a hole early," said Hampton, a former Astro. "I honestly had some of the best stuff all year, I just couldn't get into a rhythm. The location wasn't there."


© 2005 STATS, Inc
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