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This time, it's Expos-Braves in brawl

Otis Nixon almost charged the mound one pitch before he actually did. "I told the umpire if he threw at me again, I'd go after him," Nixon said.

When Wally Ritchie's next pitch hit the Atlanta Braves outfielder, Nixon dropped his bat and raced to the mound. He knocked the Philadelphia pitcher to the ground with a lunging kick and threw several punches before others poured off both benches to separate them.

"All I know is Otis beat the living daylights out of him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It made me happy."

The fight was one of several that have erupted in the majors this season, including two bench-clearing incidents in the American League on Saturday night.

"I've got to protect myself," said Nixon.

Tuesday night's brawl, drawing both teams to the center of the diamond, came in the eighth inning of Atlanta's 9-5 victory over the Phillies. It also was the night Atlanta honored Dale Murphy, the longtime Braves star traded to Philadelphia last August.

Ritchie, who threw only two pitches in relief, and Nixon were ejected.

"I was just trying to go in on him and it got away," said Ritchie, who said he got a few scratches in the skirmish, "but nothing serious."

In related news, Steve Howe, the New York Yankees pitcher suspended six times for drug and alcohol abuse, issued a warning Wednesday to opponents who taunt him about his past.

"Let me say this, nothing happens until I throw the ball, and I throw the ball 95 miles per hour with accuracy," Howe told the New York Post.

Hershiser had right "stuff'

Tuesday night in second start

ST. LOUIS _ Orel Hershiser has rediscovered something the rest of the National League has known for years.

"I'm working on reminding myself that my stuff is good enough for the big leagues," Hershiser said Tuesday after shutting out St. Louis Tuesday night for 6 innings.

Hershiser, 32, struck out five, walked three and left with a 1-0 lead.

It was the 1988 Cy Young Award winner's second major-league outing since undergoing shoulder surgery last April 25.

Hershiser, who was seeking his 100th career victory, strained his right hamstring running out a double in the fifth inning and left in favor of John Candelaria. The Dodgers went on to lose 3-2 in 11 innings.

"I came out because of my leg, but I would have only pitched about one more inning anyway," Hershiser said. "You don't want to combine a shoulder and leg injury."

Around the bases . . .

The sale of the Expos to a group headed by team president Claude Brochu will be presented to baseball owners for approval next week. Fred Kuhlmann, head of the major-league ownership committee, said his panel would recommend approval of the sale.

Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles were among hundreds of mourners Wednesday at the funeral in Whittier, Calif., for Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda's son, Thomas Jr., who died of pneumonia this week at age 33.

Dunedin High catcher Mark Gipner signed with the Yankees Tuesday night, a day after he was chosen in the fourth round of the amateur draft. Gipner will report June 12 to the Yankees' Gulfcoast Rookie League team in Tampa.

Wayne County (Mich.) officials have rejected all plans for renovating Tiger Stadium and plan to build a new $120-million ballpark financed jointly by the county and the Detroit Tigers.

County executive Ed McNamara unveiled the plans at a news conference Wednesday, saying the decision to build a new stadium was made after a Detroit city architect determined that two schemes to renovate the existing 79-year-old ballpark were impractical.

Eli Jacobs, 53, the owner of Orioles, said this week he is considering selling the team. Jacobs, 53, said he has informed baseball commissioner Fay Vincent that he would like to resume a lower-profile life and devote more time to his varied business, civic and philanthropic interests.

Embattled outfielder Mike Marshall was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Red Sox, a day after undergoing minor surgery on the big toe of his left foot.

His place on the roster will be filled by outfielder Phil Plantier, who was called up from Class AAA Pawtucket farm club.

_ Compiled from staff, wire reports.

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