Lopez puts Braves on the march

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Baseball

Atlanta Braves 4 Cleveland Indians 3 (Atlanta lead best-of-seven World Series 2-0)

The Atlanta Braves, defeated in two of the last three World Series, took a major step towards claiming their first-ever crown with a narrow victory over the Cleveland Indians in the second game of the 1995 series on Sunday night.

Chief contributor to the success was catcher Javier Lopez, who struck a two-run homer in the sixth inning as the Braves opened up a two-game cushion in the best-of-seven series.

"No doubt about it, this is a great feeling. Everybody wants to be a hero," Lopez, a second-year player from Puerto Rico, said.

"That's something that you can never forget," he said of his homer, a blast to centre field, with team-mate David Justice on second base.

With the scores tied at 2-2, Lopez had fallen two strikes behind on the count, then 1-2 and then - with the Atlanta fans chanting his name - fouled a pitch off before launching a homer to put Atlanta up 4-2.

"I didn't pay attention to the crowd," Lopez said. "I just tried not to listen to people, I just tried to concentrate and get a good pitch to hit."

The best-of-seven series moves to Cleveland tonight for Games Three, Four and, if needed, Five.

With Tom Glavine credited with the win, Atlanta pitchers have now held the mighty Indian offence - best in the major leagues during the regular season - to just seven hits in two games, following Greg Maddux's two- hitter in the first game of the series.

"I thought he pitched pretty darn good," the Atlanta manager, Bobby Cox, said of Glavine, while also acknowledging he had a little luck at times. "They're just better pitchers than we've seen in a while," said the Cleveland manager, Mike Hargrove.

Cleveland fielded the oldest battery ever seen in a World Series, with 40-year-old pitcher Dennis Martinez and 38-year-old catcher Tony Pena but experience counted for little with Martinez taking the loss, giving up all four runs in 52/3 innings on eight hits and three walks.

It had all appeared much brighter for Cleveland at the top of the second inning when Eddie Murray's two-run homer had put them 2-0 ahead.

However, in the bottom of the third, Martinez dug himself into a hole, hitting lead-off man Marquis Grissom with a wild pitch, then allowing him to steal third with a wayward throw to second. The damage done, Chipper Jones' sacrifice fly and Justice's RBI single squared the score for Atlanta.

After Lopez's heroics had put the Braves 4-2 up, Cleveland countered at the top of the seventh. Kenny Lofton singled through the right side with two out, stole his second base of the game - and fourth of the series - and then scored when Omar Vizquel beat Mike Devereaux for a two-base error.

However, despite piling on the pressure, the Indians could not find another score.

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