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NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP : Braves Tumble Two Games Back

From Associated Press

It was a night to remember for Jose Rijo, and one for the Atlanta Braves--especially Ron Gant--to forget.

Rijo blanked Atlanta for seven innings on eight hits and the Cincinnati Reds capitalized on two errors for six unearned runs Thursday night in an 8-0 victory at Atlanta.

The second-place Braves lost for the fourth time in five games and fell two games behind the idle Dodgers. Both teams have nine games remaining in the regular season.

Carmelo Martinez drove in three runs and Reggie Sanders hit his first major league homer, a two-run shot.

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Rijo (15-5) scattered eight hits in seven innings. He walked three, struck out seven and pitched out of several jams. Rijo has won seven of his last eight starts and set a career high for victories.

Norm Charlton and Steve Foster each pitched one inning in finishing the shutout.

Rijo left 11 runners on base in his seven innings with Gant leaving eight. Rijo got the Braves’ cleanup hitter in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings, each time with runners on first and second and two out.

“Any night you lose is a night to forget,” said Gant, who flied out, grounded out twice and struck out against Rijo. “But, no. It’s just not me in particular. The whole team would rather forget it. It’s not just one person. The team doesn’t just depend on me.”

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Red Manager Lou Piniella said Rijo “saved his best stuff for Gant. The tougher the hitter, the tougher Jose is.”

The Braves head to Houston for a three-game weekend series.

Martinez hit a two-run double in the second inning after Barry Larkin singled with one out and Eric Davis drew a two-out walk from Charlie Leibrandt (15-12). Leibrandt had won his last six decisions.

The Reds scored four unearned runs in the sixth off Leibrandt to put a damper on the crowd of 42,431, which put the Braves’ home attendance over the 2-million mark for only the second time since they moved to Atlanta in 1966.

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The Braves have drawn 2,006,644 with three home games remaining. Atlanta drew a franchise-high 2,119,935 in 1983.

Pittsburgh 4-1, New York Mets 3-2--A 15-inning game to start a doubleheader at New York was the last thing the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted. But they endured and won.

Don Slaught’s double in the 15th scored Barry Bonds from first base for the deciding run in the longest game of the season for both teams.

The opener took 4 hours 20 minutes, and the second game didn’t start until after 10 p.m. EDT. The Mets won the nightcap on Howard Johnson’s sacrifice fly in the eighth. It was his National League-leading 112th RBI.

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Pittsburgh, which clinched the NL East title Sunday, has won eight of its last 10 games. The Mets have lost seven of 11.

“The guys were even too tired to shake my hand,” said Slaught, who did not start the first game. “I’m swinging a hot bat, I just want to keep sharp for the playoffs.”


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