ATLANTA -- A team struggling to regain its footing sent the right pitcher to the mound and had the right hitter at the top of the lineup Friday night.
If there's a sure thing with the Giants in town, it's Greg Maddux. And, if there's any hitter deserving of a shot at leadoff, it's Gerald Williams.
Trapped between the pair, San Francisco never had a chance.
In control and on a roll, Maddux spun his usual magic to remain perfect against the Giants, and Williams built a case to remain atop the order. Turning up the heat on a dandy pennant race, the Braves used Maddux's strong performance and Williams' three RBI to open a homestand with a 7-3 victory before a Turner Field sellout crowd of 49,321 fans.
"We know it's on our shoulders," right fielder Brian Jordan said. "Either win it or blow it. We know in September we're going to be watching the scoreboard."
By working into the seventh inning and allowing just one run, Maddux improved to 8-0 against the Giants in Atlanta. He received all the support he needed in the first inning when Jordan sent a bases-loaded double against the right-center field wall against Giants starter Shawn Estes (7-7) and Jose Hernandez's RBI double made it 4-0.
Williams, who singled and scored in the first, finished with three hits and scored a pair of runs. Delivering an answer to critics who suggest he can't hit right-handers, he matched his career-high with his 10th home run in the eighth, a two-run shot against reliever Jerry Spradlin.
"It felt good to make a positive contribution," Williams said. "I just want to play, it doesn't matter to me (where I hit)."
The game had its controversial moment in the eighth when official scorer Mark Frederickson charged center fielder Andruw Jones with an error on J.T. Snow's drive to the warning track. Jones, who made a terrific catch to rob Rich Aurilia of an RBI double in the sixth, was running hard on the warning track, with the wall looming in front of him, but couldn't make a basket catch of Snow's ball.
"I don't appreciate the error," Jones said, "but I can't do anything about it. I got there, but couldn't come up with the catch."
Maddux, 8-2 with a 2.02 ERA in his last 11 starts, continued his excellent work. He yielded a run on Marvin Benard's two-out double in the third, then retired Benard in the fifth with a pair of runners on base and the Giants eyeing a comeback.
It was a typical Maddux performance. He changed speeds on his pitches, worked both sides of the plate and did a number on Barry Bonds, limiting him to a pair of fruitless at-bats before walking him in the sixth.
"I made a couple of good pitches and got away with some," Maddux said.
Maddux, 5-0 against the Giants since they last beat him in July 1996, gave way to Mike Remlinger in the seventh. The lefty struck out Benard with runners on the corners, then worked a shutout eighth. Kevin McGlinchy, who hadn't made an appearance since Sunday, had a rough ninth, yielding four hits and a pair of runs.
That did nothing to detract from Maddux, Williams or Atlanta's first pennant race in five years.
"(A pennant race) is more fun, it's more exciting," Maddux said. "It's still just the beginning of August, but there's more flavor to it."
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