Originally created 08/18/99

Don't just look at the numbers



DENVER -- The numbers suggested Greg Maddux had a long Monday night at Coors Field.

Six innings, 12 hits, five runs, four earned. Not exactly classic Maddux, but certainly good enough for a 14-6 victory over the Rockies, his 15th win, one behind a trio of National League leaders.

Examine the win closer and understand that this was one of Maddux's best performances of the season. First, take into account Coors, where pitchers consider a seven-run outing acceptable. Next, figure in the improved location of his pitches and how well he changed speeds, and understand that giving up four earned runs at Coors in like allowing one or two runs elsewhere.

"I think this is the best I've pitched in a while, but you'd never know it looking at the line score," said Maddux, who is 4-0 with a 5.04 ERA in August. "I thought they found a lot of holes."

Handed a 5-0 lead before he even made a pitch and leading 7-0 in the third, Maddux gave up single runs in the third and fourth innings, then shortstop Jose Hernandez's throwing error opened the door to three runs in the fifth. The big blow was Dante Bichette's two-run homer, which would have gone out in any stadium, the 14th home run Maddux has allowed this season. In 34 starts last year he yielded 13 homers.

"It's not so much the homers, it's the stuff that happens before that hurts," Maddux said.

Colorado crept to within a pair of runs at 7-5 before Atlanta's bats unloaded on the Rockies bullpen. Eddie Perez, who launched a two-run homer in the third inning, hit another two-run shot in the seventh to match his career-high with four RBI. Jose Hernandez's three-run homer against Mike Porzio followed in the eighth, giving him a game-high total of five RBI, and Gerald Williams hit a solo shot in the ninth.

"I guess I better get traded over here," said Perez, hitting a cool .542 with three homers and seven RBI in seven games at Coors. "You wait for those high pitches and try to get them on the good part of the bat and let the ballpark do the rest."

Including Brian Hunter's first-inning home run, the Braves blasted five homers and collected a total of nine extra-base hits. They hit three more doubles, extending their Atlanta-record streak to 42 consecutive games with a double, the longest streak in the majors since Cleveland had a streak of 75 consecutive games from May 30 to Aug.19, 1996.

The Braves have feasted on Colorado's pitching this season, abusing the Rockies for a .314 average, their best against any opponent except the Expos (.319). Strangely, they have felt more comfortable on the road, hitting .274 with 90 homers and 323 RBI in 61 games, than in Atlanta, where they have produced a .263 average and hit 65 home runs with 282 RBI in 60 games.

"You spot Greg Maddux five runs before we even come to bat, that's pretty tough," Rockies right fielder Larry Walker said. "He's a pretty tough pitcher. When you get down five runs at the start, it's frustrating for us and the pitcher."

Added together, it was an explosive start to a series that promises more of the same in the final three games.

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