NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP : One Hit, One Catch Bring Braves Their 13th Consecutive Victory

It turned out to be the lucky 13th victory for the Braves on Saturday night at Atlanta.

First, they had to make one hit do. It was a home run by David Justice in the second inning that gave the Braves a 1-0 victory over Danny Jackson and the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates.

Then, with the potential tying run on base in the ninth inning, center fielder Otis Nixon raced back, leaped high and reached over the fence to rob Andy Van Slyke of a home run to save the game for Charlie Leibrandt (8-3).

"That was the best play I ever saw," right fielder Justice said. "I had the best spot on the field. It was awesome. I was in a daze."

The 13th victory in a row tied a franchise record set when the 1982 Braves opened the season by winning the first 13 games. It also gave the National League West leaders 37 victories in their last 47 games.

Leibrandt survived a rocky start to pitch a four-hitter for eight innings. The save went to Kent Mercker, who got the last out.

The real save was Nixon's. Alejandro Pena started the ninth inning, but with one out Jay Bell singled. Then Van Slyke hit his rocket and Nixon saved the game.

"That was a great catch, one of the best I've ever seen, an unbelievable play," Pirate Manager Jim Leyland said. "It was a hell of a ballgame."

By the time Nixon got the ball in his glove, Brave Manager Bobby Cox was on his way to the mound to replace Pena.

"It was a home run, no doubt about it," Nixon said. "I don't know where that ranks. I used to watch Willie Mays make great catches."

"I got nothing to say," said Van Slyke, who already was into his home run trot.

Mercker disposed of Barry Bonds on a grounder and the crowd of 44,567 erupted.

Jackson (4-10) lost his first seven decisions this season for the Chicago Cubs. Except for the pitch to Justice, he was in command throughout. Jackson used only 78 pitches in seven innings.

The Pirates, whose once-imposing lead in the East was cut to two games over the Montreal Expos, let Leibrandt escape in the first inning. Bell doubled with one out and stole third. Van Slyke walked, but was out trying to steal second. After Lloyd McClendon walked, Leibrandt picked him off first to get out of the inning.

San Diego 2, New York 0--Craig Lefferts pitched seven shutout innings at New York to beat Pete Schourek and improve his record to 12-6.

Darrin Jackson provided the offense, hitting a triple and a home run and scoring both runs. Left fielder Jerald Clark singled Jackson home in the second inning, then preserved the 1-0 lead by throwing out a runner at the plate in the seventh.

In the ninth, Jackson hit his 11th home run.

Lefferts retired the first 10 Mets and allowed only one runner to reach second.

Schourek (2-4) lost, although Tony Fernandez, Tony Gwynn, Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff were a combined 0 for 11 against him.

It was the 12th time the Mets have been shut out, the most since 1981.

Cincinnati 9, St. Louis 1--The Reds came out of their slump with a bang at St. Louis, ending their four-game losing streak.

Darnell Coles went four for four and drove in two runs as the Reds, who had scored only four runs in their four defeats, remained two games behind Atlanta.

Tom Bolton (1-0) wasn't too impressive, but he won his National League debut. He gave up nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked Todd Zeile on four pitches with the bases loaded for the Cardinal run.

Paul O'Neill homered as part of a 15-hit attack that included three singles by shortstop Barry Larkin.

San Francisco 6, Philadelphia 2--Cory Snyder doubled home two runs to cap a four-run 10th inning rally by the Giants at Philadelphia.

Mike Felder's double drove in the tiebreaking run. Bryan Hickerson (4-1) pitched three perfect innings and struck out five.

Willie McGee, who hit his first home run of the season in the first inning, doubled in the tying run in the sixth for the Giants.

Houston 3, Chicago 2--Steve Finley singled with the bases loaded and one out in the 11th inning at Houston to give the Astros the victory.

The Cubs' string of three consecutive shutouts ended when the Astros scored in the first inning. But when Andre Dawson hit his 15th home run in the ninth inning, they led, 2-1.

Casey Candaele, who led off the 11th with a walk and scored the winning run, doubled home the tying run in the ninth.

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