DENVER -- In the real baseball world, which is defined as any city below a mile high, Greg Maddux is king.
At Coors Field he's the court jester.
If Maddux had pitched this far above sea level all these years, none of his four Cy Young Awards would be in his trophy case. On the flip side, if his personal catcher had been swinging a bat here for the last five years, he'd be recognized as the Venezuelan Johnny Bench.
So, while Maddux's career ERA at Coors climbed a little higher Monday night, Eddie Perez made a note to call his agent and check on Colorado's catching situation. Atlanta's backstop continued his love affair with Coors by blasting a pair of two-run homers and newly-acquired shortstop Jose Hernandez drove in five runs as the Braves won a typical mile-high slugfest 14-6 over the Rockies before a crowd of 47,519 fans.
"I guess I'd better get traded over here," Perez said. "I love to play here. You wait for those high pitches, try to get it on the good part of the bat and let the ballpark do the rest."
Maddux won his 15th, but he won't be saving the box score from today's newspaper. It shows that he worked six innings and allowed 12 hits and five runs, four earned, while yielding a pair of home runs. The win upped his career record in Denver to 6-0, but with an ERA of 4.82, more than two runs higher than his career ERA.
Fortunately for Maddux, the Rockies pitching staff has a lot more trouble working at Coors than he does. Colorado's pitchers own a 7.22 ERA at home, a figure that took a pounding against the Braves, thanks to nine extra-base hits, including five home runs by Perez, Hernandez, Brian Hunter and Gerald Williams.
"It's hard to pitch here, obviously," Maddux said. "You just have to change the way you think and realize if you go six or seven innings, you've probably done pretty good."
Tell that to Bobby Jones. Colorado's starter departed after three innings, charged with seven hits and seven runs. It all fell apart in a hurry after the got two quick outs in the first inning. A walk to Chipper Jones, Brian Jordan's single and Andruw Jones' RBI hit made it 1-0, then Hernandez added to his misery with a two-run single. Hunter's 428-foot homer, a two-run shot pulled down the left field line, gave Maddux a 5-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.
Jones (6-10) breathed a sigh of relief when Andruw Jones' bid for a grand slam fell about 10 feet shy of the left field stands in the second, but that simply postponed the inevitable. Perez blasted his first homer since July 2 in the third, another two-run shot, to boost the lead to 7-0.
In any other stadium, a seven-run advantage with Maddux (15-6) working would cause his opponent to throw in the towel. At Coors it simply turns on the Rockies' offense.
Henry Blanco's homer in the third got one run back, Vinny Castilla's leadoff single in the fourth eventually produced another run and three more runs crossed the plate in the fifth. Hernandez's throwing error opened the door and Dante Bichette's 27th homer pulled the Rockies to within a pair of runs at 7-5.
"It got hairy there for awhile," Chipper Jones said. "This park is a pitcher's nightmare. Fortunately for us, they ran out of innings."
Colorado's bullpen took its cue from Jones. Perez, hitting a cool .542 with three homers and seven RBI in seven career games at Coors, launched his second homer against Jerry DiPoto in the seventh, then Hernandez crashed a 448-foot homer off Mike Porzio in the eighth and Williams hit his 12th off Porzio in the ninth.
That allowed the Braves to breathe a little easier, but no one relaxed until Blanco struck out to end the game.
"It's not easy here," manager Bobby Cox said. "You've got to go hard all the time."
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