Expos 5, Braves 4
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ No one doubts the Atlanta Braves fill-ins can use all the practice they can get. The question now seems how to make sure they use all the practice time they do get.
In another of those small slipups that are becoming almost routine this spring, the Braves arrived at Municipal Stadium at 9:30 a.m. Sunday to get in some extra practice, but wound up standing around aimlessly for the better part of an hour until the coaches showed up.
That was at 10:30 a.m. scheduled start of practice, although the coaches actually were around earlier and sitting inside the major league clubhouse. But because the fill-ins use the minor league locker room, none of them apparently thought to peek inside the real clubhouse.
Several hours later, two more slipups by the Braves enabled the Montreal Expos to score their first three runs in a 5-4 win.
The Expos, who said any player refusing to participate in exhibition games will be kicked out of camp, dressed only 22 players in beating the Braves 8-0 Saturday. They dressed 25 Sunday and two Quebec natives, outfielders Vincent Lachance and Marc Griffin, were in Sunday’s starting lineup.
After walking the leadoff hitter in the fourth, getting two outs and giving up a single, Atlanta pitcher Ihosvany Marquez got Lachance to roll weakly to first. But like Bill Buckner’s celebrated World Series goof, Braves first baseman Greg Sparks put down his glove only to let the ball squirt past underneath it to score a run.
The next Montreal batter, Matt Rundels, drove in the next two runs by punching a line drive into left that Atlanta outfielder Rodney McCray misjudged for a double.
The one bright spot on the play might have been that McCray didn’t hurt himself. Almost four years earlier, while playing Triple-A ball in Portland, he ran through the center field fence chasing another fly ball and it became one of the most replayed sports bloopers of all time.
Few plays from this game figure to be replayed any time soon, although when last seen, the real Expos and Braves had the two best records in the National League. At the time of the Aug. 12 strike, Montreal was 74-40 and head a six-game lead over the Braves at 68-46.
The crowd, announced at 1,767, did find a few things to cheer. The Braves’ first home run, a towering ninth-inning shot by Sparks that pulled Atlanta back to within 5-3, got the day’s biggest and longest ovation. It edged out a fine running catch in right by Lee Heath in the fourth and a between-innings promotion by the local newspaper.