Originally created 05/08/99

Braves notebook: Boone on pace for career season



SAN DIEGO -- At his current pace, Bret Boone will finish with one of the best offensive seasons ever by a major league second baseman.

Boone, who had career-highs in home runs (24) and RBI (95) last season, has boosted his average to .287 with five homers, 19 RBI and 17 runs in 26 games. That would give him a season total of 30 home runs, 108 RBI and 114 runs, which would make him the first second baseman since Carlos Baerga in 1993 to have at least 100 runs and 100 RBI in the same season. Baerga had 105 runs and 114 RBI with Cleveland.

"My goal is to go out and be as consistent as I can with my swing," said Boone, who headed into Friday's game riding a nine-game hitting streak. "If my swing is as consistent as it can be, my numbers will be there.

"But I'm not going to sit here and say I'm going to drive in 100 runs and I don't know about home runs. I might hit 15 or I might hit 30. I'm not a home runs hitter like these big guys. But I know I can improve on (last year's) average and I can walk more."

Since the modern expansion era began in 1961, only three other second basemen have had seasons of 100 runs and 100 RBI, including Ryne Sandberg, who did it twice. Sandberg had 104 runs and 100 RBI in 1991 and 116 runs and 100 RBI in 1990. Juan Samuel was 113 runs and 100 RBI with Philadelphia in 1987. Joe Morgan had the best season -- 113 runs and 111 RBI with Cincinnati in 1976.

The top seven home run seasons by second basemen in major league history are: Rogers Hornsby (42), St. Louis, 1922; Davey Johnson (42), Atlanta, 1973; Sandberg (40), Cubs, 1990; Hornsby (39), St. Louis, 1925; Hornsby (39), Cubs, 1929; Joe Gordon (32), Cleveland, 1948 and Jeff Kent (31), San Francisco, 1998.

Boone has put together an outstanding first month despite hitting behind Otis Nixon, who has hit .189.

"If I was hitting third or fifth, it would be possible to drive in 100 runs, but hitting second I'm not sure I'm going to have that many opportunities," Boone said.

MADDUX ON GWYNN:

No one knows more about pitching to Tony Gwynn than Greg Maddux. That's because the four-time Cy Young winner has given up more hits to the Padres' soon-to-be 3,000-hit man than any other pitcher. Maddux has allowed Gwynn 35 hits and a .455 career average, seven more hits than teammates Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, who are tied for fourth on the all-time list.

"Come on, I've got him out 42 times," Maddux said, glancing at a stat sheet Friday afternoon. "My strategy against him is get the guys out in front of him and let him hit with nobody on. Then when he gets a single, get the guy out behind him."

Glavine says Gwynn is the only hitter he's ever faced that he has no game plan against. Instead, he tries to pitch aggressively and not fall into any patterns against the eight-time batting champion.

"I don't know how to get him out," Glavine admitted. "If you have a particularly nasty pitch one night you go with it. If not, you just hope for the best. He's better than anybody at fouling off nasty pitches and waiting for you to make a mistake."

Gwynn entered Friday's game needing 32 hits to become the 22nd player in baseball history to reach 3,000. He might not get all 32 this weekend, but with Glavine and Maddux scheduled to go tonight and Sunday, he might get close.

"He covers both sides of the plate and hits the ball to all fields," Maddux said. "He's hard to defense. He's also got a good eye. He doesn't chase many bad balls and doesn't take many strikes. He's probably the best hit-and-run guy in the game."

HOT AT THE PLATE:

The Braves started their second road trip with several hot hitters. Boone is hitting .417 with nine RBI over his last nine games, while Andruw Jones has batted .395 with four homers and 11 RBI in his last 11 games. Javy Lopez had a .296, three-RBI homestand.

On the flip side, Chipper Jones has only two hits in his last 12 at-bats, though he's tied with Brian Jordan for the team lead with seven homers. Ryan Klesko struggled through the homestand, hitting .208, Nixon has four hits in his last 17 at-bats, and Eddie Perez is 1-for-his-last-12 since an 8-for-15 start.

Bill Zack, who covers the Braves for The Augusta Chronicle, is based in Atlanta and can be reached at bzack30143@aol.com