If baseball were predictable, there wouldn’t be any point in playing the games. Scott Downs came into tonight having pitched in two games this year, in both of which he’d been knocked out in the third inning. Tonight, he pitched 6 1/3 and was credited with one unearned run. (I’m not sure why it was unearned; more on it in a bit.) He still lost, because that’s the Expos for you.

The Braves had a number of chances to score in the middle innings. In the fourth, they had back-to-back singles with one out, but Estrada hit into a DP. In the sixth, they had first and second, none out, but Chipper hit into a double play. Then then loaded the bases on walks (one intentional) but Estrada struck out. In the seventh, they got their one run when Drew hit a sharp grounder with the bases loaded and Johnson couldn’t handle it. There was only one out at the time, and I’m not sure why it was ruled unearned; I’d guess that they thought Johnson would throw the runner out at the plate. But with a chance for more, Chipper and Andruw struck out.

Russ Ortiz had a fabulous night, going seven, allowing three hits and three walks, and striking out three. Actually, he handled everyone but Brad Wilkerson well; Wilkerson had three of the Expos’ five hits on the night (two off of Ortiz, one off of Reitsma; two of the three hits were doubles) and walked. Everyone else on the Expos was pretty much hapless.

Reitsma pitched 2/3 of the eighth, then Smoltz came in and got his 15th save, striking out two and allowing one hit.

The Mets are beating the Phillies 4-1 and the Marlins are winning 6-3 as I type. If that holds up, the Braves will remain in fourth, but stay only half a game out of second, and move to 2 1/2 out of first. Night game tomorrow, Livan Hernandez pitching for the Expos against Wright. You’d think that this was the Expos’ best chance of getting a win, but these are the Expos.