Maddux: One win shy of 15 for 15 straight years

ATLANTA (AP) -- Greg Maddux didn't think his previous start was that bad, and he wasn't convinced this one was anything special.

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The numbers told a different story.

Maddux rebounded from one of the worst starts of his career, pitching four-hit ball over seven innings as the Atlanta Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Maddux (14-6), pitching on three days' rest, moved within one victory of joining Cy Young as the only pitchers to win 15 or more games in 15 straight seasons. Maddux is scheduled to make two more starts.

"If we hadn't clinched already, it would be very important,'' he said. "Obviously, I want to win. When there's so much at stake for your team, who cares, really -- other than me?''

In his previous game, Maddux gave up seven runs and seven hits

in two innings against the Florida Marlins, including a career-high

six runs in the first inning. He threw just 41 pitches in that

game, enabling him to move up in the rotation.

"I didn't think I pitched too bad the last time,'' Maddux said. "I pretty much threw the same pitches tonight, they just hit them at somebody. Defensively, we had a very good game.''

Maddux improved to 19-6 in 34 starts on three days' rest. He

threw 82 pitches and never went to a three-ball count.

"Definitely, he was locating his pitches better,'' catcher

Henry Blanco said. "The best thing tonight for him was he was

hitting his spots. Any time he hit his spots, they couldn't do

anything.''

Gary Sheffield was 2-for-3 with an RBI, and Vinny Castilla, mired in a season-long slump, went 3-for-4 with a double.

Vicente Padilla (14-11) worked out of several jams, allowing two

runs and nine hits in seven innings. He stranded 11 runners.

Chris Hammond got two outs in the eighth, and John Smoltz got four outs for his 52nd save in 56 chances. He is one shy of the NL

record shared by Randy Myers and Trevor Hoffman.

"It's almost like you're playing a six- or seven-inning game, the way their bullpen shuts people down,'' Phillies manager Larry Bowa said.

It's the eighth time this year Smoltz has gone more than one

inning.

"I haven't been in that situation lately,'' Smoltz said. "That was a big situation in the eighth, and I know it was big for (Maddux).''

Maddux retired his first 10 batters before giving up one-out

singles in the fourth. With runners on first and third, he retired

Pat Burrell and Travis Lee on shallow fly balls.

Bobby Abreu led off the seventh with a single, stole second,

took third on a flyout by Burrell and scored on a single by Mike

Lieberthal. Maddux retired Marlon Byrd on an inning-ending

groundout.

"He's very good,'' Byrd said. "He's tough to hit. He hits the spots at different speeds.''

Atlanta took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Mark DeRosa led off

with a double and scored on a bloop single by Sheffield. Henry

Blanco hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

"We want to get him that 15th win,'' Sheffield said of Maddux. "We want to help him make history.''

Andruw Jones nearly made a huge blunder in the third inning,

when he nonchalantly tried to catch a fly ball by Padilla. The ball

bounced off the heel of Jones' glove and then a knee before he

snared it with his bare hand.

Jones quickly threw the ball into the stands _ it was the final

out of the inning _ and jogged to the dugout with a grin.

Game notes
Braves SS Rafael Furcal was a late scratch because of flu.

... Castilla has made just six errors at third base and has a .981

fielding percentage, which would set a team record. Ken Oberkfell

had a .979 percentage in 1987. ... A heavy rain shower about two

hours before the game prevented both teams from taking batting

practice. The skies cleared about an hour before the scheduled 7:35

p.m. EDT start.