Braves top Pirates as Rocker returns

Reliever gets pulled after six straight balls

National League

June 15, 2000

John Rocker made a wild but harmless return to the Atlanta Braves last night, throwing six successive balls before being lifted in an 8-4 victory over the host Pittsburgh Pirates.

Rocker, exiled to the minors to battle his wildness after a heated run-in with a reporter June 4, felt he had worked out his control problems at Triple-A Richmond, but he apparently didn't.

The left-hander replaced Greg Maddux (9-1) with the Braves up 8-4, two on and two outs in the eighth to more boos than cheers, a far different reception than he received in Rocker-friendly Richmond.

The cheers from the crowd of 16,972 grew louder with each ball to John Vander Wal, who walked on four pitches, none very close to the strike zone.

After Rocker threw two more balls to Pat Meares, putting him in danger of walking in a run, manager Bobby Cox came to the mound, talked briefly to the reliever, then signaled for former closer Kerry Ligtenberg.

Rocker spoke briefly but cordially to reporters before the game, but declined to talk after the game, although several teammates did.

"We can do it with him, or we can do it without him," said Chipper Jones, who hit a two-run, go-ahead homer. "It's his choice what happens. We can't go out there and throw strikes for him."

Brian Jordan also called Jordan " a cancer"on the club before Rocker's June 5 demotion, was conciliatory.

"I think he's trying too hard," Jordan said. "I'm sure there's some pressure on him, he's trying too hard to do well. He's going to work on it. It's no different than a hitter being in a slump. Get a couple of hits and your out of it. He'll have a good game and he'll be out of it."

Mets 10, Cubs 8: Benny Agbayani hit two bases-empty home runs, his first shots since connecting against the Cubs in Tokyo, and visiting New York beat Chicago in a game delayed by rain three times for nearly 3M-= hours.

Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura also homered for the Mets. Agbayani and Piazza each drove in three runs, and Todd Zeile had three hits.

Giants 6, Reds 2: Barry Bonds doubled and scored before leaving with a groin injury and Kirk Rueter pitched six strong innings, as host San Francisco beat Cincinnati, completing a three-game sweep.

The temperature soared to 103 degrees, matching San Francisco's all-time high and marking just the 12th time since 1891 the mercury hit the century mark in the city. Many fans draped their shirts over their heads to ward off the heat and the team mascot Lou Seal used a water gun to spray a cooling mist over the people in the crowd.

A team spokesman said the removal of Bonds from the game was precautionary and described his status as day-to-day.

Marlins 8, Phillies 1: Ryan Dempster pitched a four-hitter and Alex Gonzalez had a career- high five RBIs, as visiting Florida beat Philadelphia.

Phillies reliever Jason Boyd broke a bone on his pitching hand when he slammed his glove on the bench in the dugout.

Brewers 11, Expos 2: Marquis Grissom homered and drove in three runs, and Jamey Wright pitched eight strong innings in Milwaukee's victory over host Montreal.

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