Originally created 04/28/97

Maddux beats the rain to give Braves a win



ATLANTA - Informed that radar showed rain marching steadily toward Turner Field, Greg Maddux looked up from his locker Sunday morning and said, "Give me an hour and a half."

Not even close.

It took Maddux only 65 minutes to work 4 1/2 innings and make the series finale an official game before the rain arrived.

The poor Padres. Beaten by Andruw Jones 15 hours earlier, they couldn't deal with Maddux and Mother Nature and were swept out of Atlanta, 2-0 losers to the Braves before a soggy crowd of 36,399 fans Sunday afternoon.

"It wasn't a full day's work, but anytime you get credit for a win with a half day's work, you'll take it," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said.

The rain arrived early, forcing the game to be stopped with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. After waiting for two hours and seven minutes, umpires called it off and the Braves had their fourth win in five games.

"We knew the rain was coming when we started the game," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We figured we had a couple of hours, but we didn't. Everything worked out well for us today."

The three-game sweep was the Braves' first against the Padres since last June and set a pair of records. The 17 wins this month is an April franchise record and their 17-5 start is their best 22-game start this century.

After 22 games last year the Braves were 12-10 and in second place, 2 1/2 games behind the Expos.

"We've gotten off to a terrific start," Cox said. "We've been hitting and that accounts for a lot of it."

Jones, struggling through a 3-for-24 stretch, gave Maddux all the support he needed in the third inning. Facing Padres left-hander Fernando Valenzuela (1-3), he doubled home a pair of runs, his first RBI in five games. That upped his club-leading RBI total to 18 and boosted his confidence ten-fold.

"It was good to get up in a situation and do some damage and deliver," Jones said. "It's been awhile. In the back of my mind I knew it wouldn't last all season."

Maddux (3-1) made short work of a club he owns 16 career wins against. He faced the minimum 15 hitters and the only hit he gave up was Ken Caminiti's soft single in the second inning, a hit that was followed by Wally Joyner's double play grounder.

The rain-shortened game goes into the record books as a one-hitter for Maddux, who also had the club's last one-hitter against the Astros in May 1995, and as his first complete last this season.

Maddux made 59 pitches, 39 of them strikes, and stretched his streak to 29 innings without allowing an earned run. The only earned runs the right-hander has allowed this year came in the third inning of his first start against the Astros.

"The weather has been to a pitcher's advantage," he said. "Not only on our team, but look around the league. You see a lot of guys with low ERAs. When was the last time you saw pitchers blowing on their hands in Atlanta?"

Maddux, who had worked at least six innings in his previous four starts, is becoming sharper with every outing. Showing no signs of the sore hamstring that forced him to miss a start, he forced six ground balls, struck out four and allowed the ball out of the infield twice.

In five starts, Maddux has walked three and hasn't given up a home run.

"Just trying to pitch, man," he said. "You go out and try and make good pitches, that's really it."

The way things are going for the Braves, nothing can spoil their good times, not even Mother Nature.