Braves’ equipment takes a licking, keeps on winning



ATLANTA (AP)—With four games to go and a division title on the line, the Atlanta Braves found a winning strategy Wednesday night: beat up on the equipment.

It worked for starter Tom Glavine, who pounded his glove like some helpless sparring partner in Atlanta’s 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros that returned to Braves to sole possession of first place in the NL West.

‘‘I beat the heck out of it in the dugout,’‘ Glavine said. ‘‘And then I went into the tunnel and beat it some more.’‘

He also had a few teammates beating up on the ball. Damon Berryhill hit a three-run homer in the second inning and Fred McGriff and David Justice hit consecutive solo homers to break a 3-3 tie in the third as the Braves bounced back from a 5-2 loss Tuesday night.

Atlanta, seeking its third consecutive NL pennant, plays the Astros again Thursday night before closing with three games at home against the Colorado Rockies, who defeated San Francisco 5-3 Wednesday afternoon. The Giants, who dropped one game back, close with four games at Los Angeles.

Glavine (21-6), a 20-game winner for the third straight season, was roughed up early and wound up allowing all three runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings. The 1991 NL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and walked three in winning for the seventh time in eight decisions

After the third inning, when the Astros scored twice to tie it at 3-3, Glavine took his anger out on his glove.

‘‘I try not to show the other team that I’m upset,’‘ he said. ‘‘That anger came from giving up a 3-1 lead, espeically after I got two quick outs in the inning. That was the worst possible thing I could do.’‘

Glavine allowed only three hits the rest of the way before Jay Howell bailed him out of a seventh-inning jam when the Astros had runners on first and second and two outs. Howell got Andujar Cedeno on a liner to second.

Greg McMichael got out of a bases-loaded one-out jam in the eighth when Steve Finley bounced into a double play. McMichael then finished for his 17th save in 19 chances after loading the bases in the ninth. The Astros stranded 14 runners in all.

‘‘I just made it a little tough,’‘ said McMichael, whose best pitch is a change-up. ‘‘But that happens sometimes. maybe I was muscling up a little bit.’‘

Ken Caminiti and Kevin Bass walked with one out in the ninth, and Cedeno reached on a throwing error by third baseman Terry Pendleton. Chris Donnels then struck out and Ed Taubensee hit a roller in front of the plate that Berryhill picked up. The catcher lunged to his left and tagged Caminiti for the final out.

‘‘When you leave 14 on base, you don’t win,’‘ Houston manager Art Howe said. ‘‘We had Glavine on the ropes and couldn’t put him away.’‘

Atlanta, which has won 19 of 25, went ahead in the third against Doug Drabek (9-18) when McGriff hit his 36th homer—a 417-foot drive to right. Justice, who struck out four of his previous five at-bats, followed with his 39th, a 430-drive over the center-field fence.

Drabek, the 1990 NL Cy Young winner, was tagged for five runs and seven hits in three innings. He struck out one and walked none. After he left, Jeff Blauser hit an RBI double in the fourth off Tom Edens.

Houston, which had won three straight, went ahead in the second on Cedeno’s leadoff homer, his 11th of the season and second in two nights.

Atlanta came back in the bottom half. McGriff, in a 3-for-21 slump, singled, took second on Pendleton’s single and Berryhill hit his eighth homer of the season off the top of the wall in right.

Houston tied the score in the third on Bass’ RBI double and Cedeno’s run-scoring single. Cedeno drove in three runs Tuesday night.