PHILADELPHIA -- If pitching is an art form, then Monet and Van Gogh were on exhibit at Veterans Stadium on Friday night.
Curt Schilling painted with bold strokes, Greg Maddux with dabs here and there, but each finished with a masterpiece.
Five days after their classic duel in Atlanta, the pair were even better this time, but only Schilling departed with a smile.
The game ended in the hands of Atlanta's bullpen, which couldn't duplicate Maddux's mastery. With Mike Cather on in the ninth, the Philadelphia Phillies strung together a pair of walks and Mike Lieberthal's single, just enough offense to slip past the Atlanta Braves 1-0 before a boisterous crowd of 30,311 fans.
"Those games are one of a kind when you get two guys out there on top of their games," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said.
Schilling and Maddux have never been better. They matched each other pitch for pitch, both defenses were flawless and the game was played at breakneck speed, completed in a mere two hours.
Schilling (2-0), who bested Maddux 2-1 in Atlanta on Sunday, extended his shutout streak to 17 1/3 innings, and with 10 strikeouts boosted his strikeout total to 25 in 18 innings against the Braves.
"You just sit back and say, that's one of the best pitching matchups of the year. I'll guarantee it," Braves left fielder Ryan Klesko said.
Maddux was at his best, using 95 pitches in eight innings and allowing five hits and no walks. He lowered his earned run average to 0.78, yet he still doesn't have a win this season. In consecutive starts against the Phillies, he has yielded 10 hits and one earned run in 16 innings, yet only has a loss to show for it.
"Both of them were just unbelievably good," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I don't think one out-pitched the other."
Said Phils left fielder Gregg Jefferies, "I think the difference was neither pitcher made a mistake. I don't think I've ever seen that."
This was not an Atlanta lineup that caused Schilling's knees to tremble. The .143-hitting Andruw Jones was at leadoff, Ryan Klesko (0-for-17 vs. Schilling) batted fifth and Tony Graffanino and his .167 average hit sixth. Backup catcher Eddie Perez (.200) and the just-arrived Ray Holbert hit seventh and eighth, respectively.
Not surprisingly, the Braves managed only two hits, none after Chipper Jones' single in the fourth, and never advanced a runner into scoring position. With his first career win against the Braves at Veteran Stadium at stake, Schilling retired 21 of the final 23 hitters he faced, including the final eight straight.
"I like the game to speak for itself," Schilling said. "I wish people could feel what it's like. The fans kept the intensity level for all nine innings."
The only hitters Schilling had had trouble with in the past were Michael Tucker (2-for-3, two homers) and Chipper Jones (.357 career average). Sure enough, it was Jones, who homered against him in Atlanta's 2-1 loss last Sunday, who singled in the fourth, but he was thrown out by center fielder Doug Glanville attempting to stretch it into a double.
"I've got to get into scoring position right there any way I can," Jones said. "That way maybe somebody can get a base hit and we can score a run."
Schilling, who struck out 15 in Atlanta, dominated in a different fashion. He changed speeds, used an occasional forkball and worked both sides of the plate, getting 14 infield outs.
Maddux was just as strong, allowing only one runner past first base, and he set down 15 of the final 18 hitters he faced. He was due at the plate to lead the ninth, forcing Cox to use Curtis Pride as a pinch hitter and bringing the bullpen into the game.
Cather (0-1) was way off target, walking two straight hitters with one out. He got ahead of Lieberthal, a .129 hitter, with two strikes before the Phils' catcher sent a 1-2 pitch bounding into center field.
"The time I get hurt is when I walk people and that's what happened tonight," Cather said. "I like to think I can throw strikes whenever I want, but I just didn't do it. It was a great pitching duel and it's a shame it had to end like that. I claim full responsibility."
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