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Braves Fall Out of Lead After Wild 9-2 Loss

<i> From Associated Press</i>

On a broiling, boisterous night at Turner Field, the lights went out, three Atlanta Braves were ejected and the Braves fell out of first place after the All-Star break for the first time in five years.

Paul Byrd pitched seven strong innings and was at the center of a bench-clearing brawl Friday night as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Braves, 9-2.

“I’m frustrated with what happened tonight,” said Byrd (12-6), a part-time member of the Braves’ pitching staff in 1997 and ’98. “You have to understand, I was mistaken for the bat boy here several times, so for all those fans to be yelling at me now, I just started praying.”

The Braves, who fell half a game behind the New York Mets in the National League East, haven’t been out of first place this late in the season since July 22, 1994. But their place in the standings was overshadowed by a 16-minute power outage and three heated exchanges on the field.

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Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox, starting pitcher John Smoltz and catcher Eddie Perez were ejected in separate incidents during the third and fourth innings.

Perez was tossed in the top of the fourth for shoving and then throwing a punch at Byrd, who had hit Perez with a pitch the previous inning. The altercation occurred when Byrd came to bat.

Both benches emptied and a melee ensued, with players on both sides shoving each other. When order was restored, Perez was ejected and replaced by Greg Myers. Perez left the ballpark before the game ended.

Before the game, the Braves observed a minute of silence in memory of people killed in Thursday’s shooting rampage in the city.

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Mark O. Barton, a chemist turned day stock-trader, walked into two brokerage firms where he traded and fired randomly. Nine died and 13 were wounded. His wife, son and daughter were later found bludgeoned to death in the family home.

Barton killed himself a few hours later when police closed in on him at a gas station.

Turner Broadcasting System, which owns the Braves, said that while the company and team shared the city’s “profound sorrow,” they felt they could best serve the community by playing the game.

New York 10, Chicago 9--The Mets overcame Sammy Sosa’s 38th home run at Chicago.

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With the score tied, 8-8, Rickey Henderson hit a leadoff homer in the sixth against Kyle Farnsworth (2-4) to help the Mets to their 14th victory in 18 games. John Olerud added a key insurance run with a solo homer against Rick Aguilera in the ninth.

Sosa, three for five including an RBI triple, homered with two outs in the first, launching a pitch from Masato Yoshii 465 feet to straightaway center.

Colorado 5, St. Louis 4--Mark McGwire answered Sosa with his 38th homer to tie for the major league lead, but Terry Shumpert’s two-run homer in the eighth was the winner at St. Louis.

The Cardinals are 13-21 when McGwire homers. McGwire, whose homer was the 495th of his career, had a chance to win the game in the ninth but lined out with two outs and runners on first and second.

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Milwaukee 1, Montreal 0--Rookie Kyle Peterson pitched eight impressive innings for his first major league victory and Alex Ochoa homered at Milwaukee.

Peterson (1-1) gave up only four hits in his third major league start. Peterson, Milwaukee’s top selection in the 1997 amateur draft, retired 15 of 16 at one point and didn’t allow a runner into scoring position until the sixth inning.

Cincinnati 7, San Francisco 4--Denny Neagle gave up three solo homers--two by Barry Bonds--but the Reds used a big first inning and two solo homers of their own to win at Cincinnati.

Florida 8, Pittsburgh 7--Preston Wilson returned from two days of back treatments for the Marlins and connected for a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning at Pittsburgh. Wilson’s 19th homer was his team-record third this season as a pinch-hitter.

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