SAN DIEGO -- Perhaps now the segment of the population that believes Kevin Millwood was last year's flash in the pan will acknowledge the obvious.
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There's a Cy Young Award or two in the kid's future, along with some 20-win seasons, an ERA title and a strikeout crown.
All that was apparent Tuesday night during the Braves' 11-4 victory over the Padres at Qualcomm Stadium where Millwood struck out a season-high 12, including nine of the last 13 batters he faced, to match last year's win total with his 17th.
Millwood's performance and a rejuvenated lineup snapped a three-game skid and restored some order to a chaotic pennant race. With 16 games left, the Braves are two games ahead of the Mets, 7-2 losers to the Rockies Tuesday evening, and can salvage a .500 trip with a victory tonight.
"(Winning 17) means a lot," said Millwood, who's reeled off five straight wins. "To be able to come back this year and do what I did last year and do it a little bit better gives everyone a lot more confidence in me."
Millwood, who's 11-3 in his last 17 starts, demonstrated why he's leading the major leagues in opponents batting average and is third in the National League in strikeouts. He showed off a lively fastball and a big curve that froze so many Padres he should have a popsicle named after him. His only mistake was a 1-0 fastball that Chris Gomez caught up with in the third inning and hit into the left field stands, his first home run of the season and his first in 286 at-bats.
In the fourth Millwood struck out a pair of Padres. In the fifth he struck out the side. He added three more strikeouts in the sixth. He struck out every San Diego regular, with the exception of Tony Gwynn and Wally Joyner, at least once and gave up only three singles following Gomez's homer.
"Walking up the tunnel after I came out I thought I only had six or seven strikeouts," said Millwood, who had a career-high 13 strikeouts against the Pirates on April 14 last year. "I was pretty surprised with the number I had."
The pressure on Millwood to snap the club's three-game slide was eased when the lineup backed him up with its best production since a 14-6 pounding of the Rockies on Aug. 16.
Twenty-four hours after making Woody Williams' 4.81 ERA look like a misprint, the Braves finally started to bunch some hits against rookie Buddy Carlyle, though half the early run production belonged to Millwood. The first home run of his career was a two-out, two-run shot in the fourth, the fourth home run by an Atlanta starter this season.
The Braves were outscored, 11-6, in the last two games in San Francisco and shutout 3-0 by the Padres Monday night, an offensive void created by the combined slumps of Chipper Jones, Brian Jordan and Andruw Jones, who were a collective 8-for-41 on the trip.
With two outs in the first, Ryan Klesko, one of the few hitters swinging a hot bat, sent a hit into right field to score Gerald Williams, who was plunked on the arm to open the game. Jordan followed Chipper Jones' two-out double in the third with a single for his 104th RBI, matching his 1996 career-high.
"We've talked about getting everybody hot with the bats in the same game for about a week now," manager Bobby Cox said. "It was nice to score a few and get all of them going."
Klesko, with runners on first and second and no outs in the fifth after a single by Keith Lockhart and a walk to Chipper Jones, bounced a double down the right field line for a 6-1 lead.
In the sixth Jose Hernandez and Eddie Perez hit back-to-back homers against reliever Carlos Almanzar and Jordan picked up his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly.
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