Originally created 08/30/99

Braves pitcher leads league



ST. LOUIS -- Guess which Braves starting pitcher leads the major leagues with the lowest opponents' batting average?

A fair assumption would be Greg Maddux. John Smoltz would be another good guess. Both responses are wrong.

Kevin Millwood has limited hitters to a .203 average, better than Randy Johnson (.211), Pedro Martinez (.221), Kevin Brown (.227) and David Cone (.227). In typical fashion, the right-hander downplayed the numbers, saying only "it's kind of cool," when it was brought to his attention.

Millwood, whose 10 shutout innings in Saturday's 3-0 victory over the Cardinals lowered his ERA to 2.98, the major league's fourth-best, is among National League leaders in wins, strikeouts and innings. He won't reach 20 wins and he won't win the Cy Young, but he's developed into one of the league's top pitchers in just his second full season in the rotation.

"He's been absolutely outstanding and recently he's been even better than that," pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. "He's got great command, great stuff and he's always had the intangibles -- attitude, makeup and mound presence."

What makes Millwood so tough is command of a 93 mph fastball and a pair of nasty breaking pitches, a slider and a curve. He'll throw an occasional changeup, but he's still polishing the pitch, which isn't good news for hitters in the future.

"He's got one of those fastballs where you go to hit it and it's already in my glove," catcher Eddie Perez said. "It's one of those fastballs that takes off and he's not afraid to throw it to anybody. One of the best fastball hitters in the league is (Colorado's) Vinny Castilla and he was throwing them right down the middle and he couldn't hit it. He's also doing really good with his curve, using it to strike people out."