Braves' Maddux loses no-hit bid in sixth inning

ATLANTA (AP) -- Robert Fick wasn't thinking about a grand slam.

Greg Maddux never considered a no-hitter.

Fick hit his second grand slam of the season and Maddux pitched

no-hit ball into the sixth inning, carrying the Atlanta Braves to a

6-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.

"It was their show,'' Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Maddux

was vintage and Fick was doing what he does -- hit.''

Fick has been overshadowed in the Braves lineup, even though

he's hitting .307 with 40 RBI. He stood out on this night, driving

in five runs to match his career high.

The grand slam came in the fourth against Baltimore ace Sidney

Ponson, who lost for only the second time in his last 10 starts.

"I was just trying not to hit into a double play,'' Fick said.

"I didn't even look at it. I knew I hit it pretty good, good

enough to at least get one run in.''

Maddux (6-6) has said many times that he never expects to throw

a no-hitter because his pitches are usually around the plate.

Sooner or later, he's going to slip up just enough to get hit --

he's never thrown a no-hitter in the majors.

Even when Maddux retired the first two hitters in the sixth, the

thought never crossed his mind.

"There was still a long time to go,'' he said. "I was just

trying to be realistic with myself.''

Brian Roberts broke up the no-hit bid with a double into the

right-field corner. Maddux surrendered an unearned run in the

seventh and left after the first two hitters reached base in the

eighth. Both scored when former Brave B.J. Surhoff singled against

Ray King.

But Kevin Gryboski, Jung Bong and John Smoltz shut down the

Orioles the rest of the way. Smoltz, pitching one day after taking

his first loss in more than a year, worked a scoreless ninth for

his 27th save in 29 chances.

Baltimore's Melvin Mora, the leading hitter in the American

League at .361, left the game after being hit on the right hand

with a pitch in the first.

Mora was already striding when Maddux's pitch drifted inside and

struck his hand. After being treated, Mora went to first base and

stayed in the game defensively for the bottom half of the inning.

The outfielder was replaced by Luis Matos when the Orioles took

the field for bottom of the second. X-rays were negative, and

manager Mike Hargrove said Mora was day-to-day.

"You don't expect Greg Maddux to hit people,'' Hargrove said.

Fick came up again with the bases loaded in the fifth, settling

for a sacrifice fly to deep center. The Braves first baseman had

five RBI for the fourth time in his career, the last coming on May

8 against Colorado. In that game, he also hit a grand slam.

Maddux's performance came one day after teammate Mike Hampton

took a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Philadelphia. The Braves

wound up losing 3-2.

Maddux didn't get as far with the no-hitter, but he had a better

result. The four-time Cy Young winner is finally pitching like it

after an up-and-down season, going six straight starts without

giving up more than three earned runs.

"I was lucky tonight,'' he said. "I got a bunch of outs

totally on the other side of the plate from where I was trying to

throw it. I was missing on the corners instead of down the middle.

It looks good, but I was lucky. I don't want to be lucky. I want to

be good.''

After Ponson (9-4) started with three hitless innings of his

own, Gary Sheffield opened the fourth with a walk. Chipper Jones

followed with the first hit of the game, a single to right. Andruw

Jones also walked to load the bases, bringing up Fick.

The left-handed hitter yanked the first pitch he saw into the

first row of the right-field stands, giving the Braves 4-0 lead.

"It was right down the middle,'' Ponson said. "One bad pitch

and I was down 4-0. It was one of those games. You walk a couple of

guys, and before you know it, you're down 4-0.''

Ponson lost for only the second time since April 22, having gone

8-1 over his previous nine starts.

He was hampered by poor control, walking five during his

five-inning stint. He also gave up five hits and didn't strike out

anyone.

Fick also scored Atlanta's sixth run, coming all the way around

from first on a double by Vinny Castilla in the seventh.

Game notes

The Braves are 22-6 in interleague play over the past two

seasons. ... Baltimore SS Deivi Cruz made two errors, including a

dropped throw in the fifth that may have cost the Orioles a double

play. ... Fick has three grand slams in his career. ... Baltimore

reliever Kerry Ligtenberg pitched a scoreless inning against his

former team.