Braves hit three HRs off Big UnitPosted: Friday August 15, 2003 10:46 PM
Updated: Friday August 15, 2003 11:54 PM
Castilla hit one of three Atlanta homers against Johnson, finishing with four RBIs as the Braves extended the Big Unit's misery with a 10-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
"He's not as sharp as he usually is," Giles said. "He's just got to get his work in. There's no doubt he'll get it back and be a force to be reckoned with."
Castilla, who bats just ahead of the pitcher in the Braves' potent lineup, became the fifth Atlanta player to reach 20 homers this season.
"This is a great lineup," he said. "I've got no complaints about hitting eighth. I'm just glad to go out there every day."
The Braves have 21 homers in their last nine games, pushing their NL-leading total to 185 for the season. Arizona dropped three games behind Philadelphia in the wild-card race.
Castilla hit a three-run homer in the second to put the Braves ahead, and he drove in his fourth run of the night with an eighth-inning single.
Johnson has won the last four NL Cy Young awards, but he won't be extending his streak to five. The Braves pounded him for nine hits and seven runs in five innings.
"It snowballed," he said. "I don't know exactly what's going on right now. You have to point to location, I guess. Everything I'm throwing, they're hitting."
Actually, Johnson has always fared poorly against Atlanta -- whether healthy or injured. His regular-season ERA vs. the Braves climbed to 5.80, more than two runs higher than his career numbers against any other NL team.
"I'd like to see any pitcher pitch a quality game against that lineup," he said. "[Rafael] Furcal and Giles get on base and make things happen. Then they have power throughout the lineup. Evidently, a lot of other pitchers have had the same trouble I've had against them."
Atlanta spent the night reaching several power milestones at the Big Unit's expense. In addition to Castilla getting to 20 homers, Jones joined teammates Javy Lopez and Gary Sheffield in the 30-homer club. Sheffield also extended his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games.
It's the first time since 1998 that Atlanta has had three players with 30 homers.
Shane Reynolds (10-6) was the beneficiary in another night of Home Run Derby. He went 5 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits, four walks and three runs -- good enough to win with the kind of numbers the Braves' offense is putting up.
Atlanta has averaged 6.7 runs in Reynolds' 22 starts, allowing him to reach double-figure wins with a 5.44 ERA.
"I pride myself on going a little longer in the game and giving the bullpen a little rest," Reynolds said. "But I'm glad I was able to battle back after that first inning."
Reynolds fell behind 2-0 before the Braves came to bat. Luis Gonzalez and Shea Hillenbrand hit back-to-back, run-scoring doubles into the right-field corner.
The Braves quickly erased the deficit. Sheffield had an RBI single in the first to eclipse an 18-game streak he had for San Diego in 1992 on the way to winning the NL batting title.
Lopez led off the second by doubling off the wall, moving to third on Julio Franco's single. That brought up Castilla, who lined a slider into the left-field seats, the 359-foot drive barely clearing the wall to put the Braves up 4-2.
Giles and Jones hit solo homers in the fifth to extend Atlanta's lead to 7-2. Johnson was done, replaced by a pinch-hitter in the sixth after giving up three homers in a game for the first time since May 26, 2002, against Los Angeles.
Junior Spivey, batting .547 in his career against the Braves, went 2-for-2 with a sixth-inning homer. He also walked twice.
The Braves put the game out of reach with three runs in the eighth. Furcal had a two-out, two-run single.
Notes: Despite the lopsided score, the hits were all even at 11 apiece. ... The Braves had four players with 30 homers in 1998: Andres Galarraga, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Lopez. ... Giles has 15 homers and the Braves have a good chance to match the 1965 team, which had six 20-homer players in the franchise's final season in Milwaukee. ... The Diamondbacks struck out only three times, including a pair of whiffs by leadoff hitter Matt Kata. Reynolds, who was cut by Houston in spring training, became the fourth Braves' starter to reach 10 wins. Russ Ortiz (17-5), Greg Maddux (11-9) and Mike Hampton (10-5) already reached that milestone.