Originally created 08/19/00

Braves lose series opener



SAN FRANCISCO -- The man causing a serious case of deja vu?

The same pitcher who prevented the Braves from reaching the World Series three years ago.

Livan Hernandez, every bit as dominating Friday night as he was in winning MVP honors in the '97 NLCS, set a career-high with 10 strikeouts and held the Braves to just four hits in posting the first shutout of his career as the San Francisco Giants took a 2-0 win at Pac Bell Park.

"It's Eric Gregg all over again," said third baseman Chipper Jones, referring to the umpire who helped Hernandez set a National League record with 15 strikeouts in the now-infamous Game 5 of the '97 NLCS. "The tone was set early that there was going to be a big zone and Livan has shown what he can do with a big zone."

The undeserving loser was Greg Maddux, who has one win since July 18, despite giving up more than three earned runs just once in his last five starts. He went seven, allowing five hits, with eight strikeouts, but fell to 13-7 on the strength of a Rich Aurilia home run.

Facing a pitcher they had beaten consistently since a 15-whiff exercise in the '97 championship series, the Braves seemed to be suffering from a case of jet lag after crossing the country Thursday night.

Hernandez made short work (2 hours and 9 minutes) of the Braves, allowing four singles, two which didn't leave the infield, and two walks. He didn't overpower the Braves, but by mixing an 88 m.p.h. fastball with a changeup and slow curve, he kept the hitters off-balance and flailing at his pitches.

"He changed speeds and was ahead in the count all day," left fielder B.J. Surhoff said. "He took advantage of what he had and we were a little over-aggressive."

Andruw Jones, who was 2 for 3 against the 25-year-old Cuban in an 7-5 win April 8 in Atlanta, was 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts, while Chipper Jones, had an infield hit in the ninth for No. 1,000, but didn't get the ball out of the infield in four trips.

Hernandez, a winner of four of his last six starts and seven of 11, gave up Andres Galarraga's bloop single in the second, then didn't allow another hit until Maddux started the sixth with another single. But the rally, such as it was, died as quickly as it started. Rafael Furcal took a curve bending over the outside corner for strike three, Andruw Jones flied out to Marvin Benard in center and Chipper Jones tapped out.

The Braves, who had won five of six against the Giants this season, failed to advance a runner as far as third. Hernandez, who had not struck out more than seven since whiffing nine Expos May 25, benefited from home plate umpire Doug Eddings' liberal interpretation of the strike zone.

Brian Jordan questioned his third-strike call in the seventh and became Hernandez's eighth strikeout victim, and Furcal went down for a third time in the eighth.

Maddux, 2-0 against the Giants this season, escaped the first after singles by Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, then made a two-out mistake in the fourth. J.T. Snow singled and Aurilia launched a 1 and 0 pitch into the left field stands, tucking it just inside the foul pole, to make it 2-0.

It was Aurilia's 14th homer and second hit against Maddux in 16 career at-bats. He rolled out to Furcal and struck out in his two other at-bats against the four-time Cy Young winner.

"It's unfortunate that one pitch cost Maddux the game," Chipper Jones said.