Maddux dominates in 2-0 win
By Bill Zack| Morris News Service
Sunday, June 28, 1998

ATLANTA -- It was a masterpiece, even by the lofty standards Greg Maddux has created in his five-plus seasons with Atlanta.

In adding to his legacy Saturday night, the right-hander turned night into day and offered the Toronto Blue Jays a lesson in the value of throwing strikes. Maddux, who says he'll never throw a no-hitter because he's in the strike zone too much, made home plate umpire Eric Gregg the busiest man at Turner Field.

The four-time Cy Young winner, who should be clearing space in his trophy case for a fifth plaque, struck out a career-high 13 and notched his second shutout in five starts as the Atlanta Braves reached the midpoint of the season with a speedy 2-0 victory over the Blue Jays before a sellout crowd of 48,338 fans.

The win, Maddux's 100th as a Brave, made him the National League's top winner with 11 victories. The game was played in a lightning-fast 1:46, the fastest game in the major leagues this season, and ended before dark.

"I was telling the guys, let's go ahead and play tomorrow's game tonight so we can have two days off," third baseman Chipper Jones said.

Michael Tucker and Ryan Klesko gave Maddux all the offense he needed in the span of nine pitches in the seventh inning. They launched home runs against Toronto starter Juan Guzman (4-10), Tucker's 11th and Klesko's 13th, to give the Braves just their third win in their last 10 games.

"That's about as good as it gets," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Maddux's performance was tempered somewhat by a self-inflicted injury to outfielder Curtis Pride, who suffered a gash on the index finger of his left hand was placed on the 15-day disabled list. First baseman Randall Simon, who hit three homers and drove in 10 runs at Charlotte on Saturday night, was recalled from Class AAA Richmond.

Pride suffered the injury following his last at-bat in the seventh inning when he angrily swung a bat against a tunnel wall and splintered it.

"It was a stupid thing for me to do," he said. "I should be more professional about it. I was kind of mad and let everything out."

With Gregg providing an ample strike zone, Maddux and Guzman had little trouble throwing dozens of strikes. Gregg, who was vilified for his spacious strike zone in Game 6 of last year's NLCS, consistently called strikes on pitches that were well off the corners. The hitters were left with little choice but to swing, which resulted in Maddux matching his career-high with 11 strikeouts in seven innings.

"Maddux has good stuff," Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado said. "His ball moves a lot and he's got good control, but he gets a lot of help. The plate is 17 inches wide, but with Gregg it's about 25 inches wide and that makes it a lot harder."

Maddux (11-2) allowed eight singles, didn't issue a walk and permitted three runners to reach scoring position. Seventy-seven of his 104 pitches were strikes and he lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.64.

By the time the game was an hour old, Maddux was completing the top of the sixth and fans were beginning to wonder if they still had a chance to catch a movie after the game. During one stretch between the second inning and the sixth, Maddux retired 12 straight hitters, six on strikes, and didn't allow the ball to escape the infield.

"The minute you start patting yourself on the back is the minute you let down," he said. "You can't do it. It can turn like that, so you never let up."

The right-hander, an 8-7 winner over the Blue Jays last June in Toronto, benefited from Jose Canseco's absence from the lineup. The left fielder, who hit a two-run homer in Friday night's victory, was out with back spasms and his replacement, Juan Samuel, struck out four times.

"Today Maddux got his changeup over to righties and lefties," catcher Eddie Perez said. "That was a big key. We struck out a lot of guys with changeups."

Maddux preserved the shutout and the victory after allowing singles to Delgado and Tony Fernandez leading the ninth. He got a double-play grounder from Darrin Fletcher, then forced a grounder from Ed Sprague to end the game.

Afterward, Maddux shrugged when questioned about Gregg's enormous strike zone.

"You can't get caught up in the umpire," he said. "You can't allow an umpire to dictate how you pitch. You have your catcher set up on the corners and you throw it there. Some umps call it and some don't."

So ended a first half that has the Braves on top in the N.L. East by 7 1/2 games and on pace to match the 1993 franchise record for victories (104) in a season.

"I'll take the same the second half in a heartbeat," Cox said. "We've had a good first half. If we get everybody back healthy, we'll be just fine."

Toronto -- 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -- 0 8 0
Atlanta -- 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 x -- 2 4 0

LOB -- Toronto 7, Atlanta 2. HR -- Klesko (13) off Guzman; Tucker (11) off Guzman. RBIs -- Tucker (35), Klesko (45). SB -- Stewart (19). S -- GMaddux. GIDP -- Fletcher, Pride.

Runners left in scoring position -- Toronto 3 (Samuel, CDelgado, Sprague); Atlanta 1 (Lockhart).

DP -- Toronto 1 (TFernandez, AGonzalez and CDelgado); Atlanta 1 (Lockhart, Weiss and Klesko).

From the Sunday, June 28, 1998 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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