Maddux allows 13 hits; Rockies go for series win

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves have such a big lead in the NL

East, they might be getting a little bored.

Larry Walker homered twice and Jay Payton had four hits as the

Colorado Rockies handed Atlanta consecutive losses for the first

time in more than a month, beating the Braves 6-3 on Sunday.

Jay Payton, middle, is batting .326 at home, but just .269 on the road this season.
Jay Payton, middle, is batting .326 at home, but just .269 on the road this season.

Atlanta still has an 18½-game cushion over Montreal in the NL

East.

"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

same.''

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

line.''

Game notes

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.