ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves have such a big lead in the NL
East, they might be getting a little bored.
Colorado Rockies handed Atlanta consecutive losses for the first
time in more than a month, beating the Braves 6-3 on Sunday.
Atlanta still has an 18½-game cushion over Montreal in the NL
"I don't think we have a problem with a letdown or lack of
intensity,'' said pitcher Tom Glavine, who will try to end the
mini-slide Monday. "We still have the best record to play for, the
home-field advantage to play for. The intensity level is the
He blamed nagging injuries and several draining games -- twice in
the previous three nights the Braves waited through rain delays --
for the closest thing to a slump in these parts.
Atlanta has lost four of its last seven.
"I don't see any letdown,'' Gary Sheffield said. "The Rockies
didn't have a good first half, so they're trying to finish strong.
Playing a team like us, they want to play well. Sometimes, you can
get on a roll.''
Payton has certainly been on a roll. On Saturday, the former
Georgia Tech star went 2-for-4 with three RBI in Colorado's 10-3
victory. He followed up by tying his career high with four of 13
hits off Greg Maddux, who came in leading the NL with a 2.51 ERA.
The four-time Cy Young winner had not given up that many hits in
a game since the New York Yankees also had 13 on June 3, 2000.
Walker, who had four RBI, hit a tiebreaking homer in the
seventh against Maddux (11-5), a 414-foot shot on an 0-2 fastball
that faded right over the plate. The Rockies slugger added his 25th
of the season, a two-run shot in the ninth off Kerry Ligtenberg.
"He's a good hitter,'' Maddux said. "You can say what you want
about Coors Field, but he can hit anywhere. I made a mistake to him
and he hit it out.''
Payton singled three times before hitting his 10th homer in the
seventh, giving the Rockies a 4-2 lead. He is batting .386 since
being traded by the New York Mets.
"I hit seventh in New York, so I wasn't getting the pitches I
am here,'' said Payton, who's batting fifth for the Rockies. "I
don't care where I'm hitting, as long as I'm in the lineup.''
The Braves have baseball's best record, but this is their first
losing streak since they dropped three in a row July 13-15.
On Monday, the finale of the four-game series, Colorado will try
to become only the second team since early May to beat the Braves
in a series.
Rockies starter Jason Jennings (14-5) was hit in the head by a
pitch in the second inning, but bounced back to work six solid
innings. He allowed five hits and two runs.
"After every inning, my arm got a little more stiff,'' Jennings
said. "But it wasn't hurting bad enough to come out of the game.''
Marcus Giles brought the Braves within a run, starting the
seventh with a pinch-hit homer off reliever Kent Mercker. But the
Rockies' shaky bullpen stymied Atlanta the rest of the way, with
Jose Jimenez working a scoreless ninth for his 33rd save.
Matt Franco tied his career high with three hits, including two
doubles, for the Braves.
Colorado set the tone against Maddux in the first inning,
stringing together three hits and taking a 1-0 lead. Walker drove
in the run with a groundout.
Maddux didn't have his usual pinpoint control, which resulted in
a scary moment for Jennings.
A high, inside fastball struck the Colorado pitcher near the
bill of his helmet as he batted in the second. Jennings flopped
facefirst into the dirt and remained down for several minutes, but
he was OK.
In the bottom half, Jennings and both benches were warned when
he hit Vinny Castilla in the back with a slow curve to start the
inning. The Braves went on to score two runs on Maddux's grounder
and Rafael's Furcal RBI single.
Jennings escaped a bases-loaded jam when, on another frightening
play, he gloved a liner heading straight for his face off the bat
of Chipper Jones.
"I tried not to think about it,'' Jennings said. "I told
myself to settle down.''
Colorado strung together three more hits in the fourth,
including Brent Butler's RBI single that tied it at 2.
Maddux was understandably grumpy after the game.
"I just made some bad pitches, the whole game really,'' he
said. "I didn't give us a chance to win. That's the bottom
Giles hit the second pinch-hit homer of the season for the
Braves. Keith Lockhart had the first on June 24 against the New
York Mets. ... Walker had his first two-homer game since Sept. 24
of last season against San Diego. ... Payton's last four-hit game
was Aug. 6, 2000, for the Mets.