Originally created 04/07/01

Braves top Marlins, 7-5



MIAMI - After nine days and more shoe fittings than Imelda Marcos, Greg Maddux ended the Great Toe Mystery on another long night at the ballpark.

On a Friday night when rain delayed the start of the game for one hour and 45 minutes, then stopped play again in the second inning for 26 minutes, Maddux, pitching for the first time since taking a line drive off his left toe during his final spring training start, didn't allow Mother Nature to faze him.

Maddux, who did not walk a batter, went five innings and Chipper Jones clobbered a 426-foot home run as the Braves opened a week-long road trip with a 7-5 win over the Florida Marlins before 15,857 at Pro Player Stadium.

"We were aiming, but we couldn't hit (Maddux's) toe," Marlins manager John Boles said.

Any questions about Maddux's lacerated toe were answered in the first inning. He needed only nine pitches to get three outs, then set down 14 of the first 15 hitters he faced. He made 59 pitches, struck out three and allowed three hits.

"Maddux was great," said Jones, who drove in four runs. "He was on top of his game. It was encouraging."

The closest Maddux came to giving up a run was in the fifth, when Derrek Lee singled with two outs and Alex Gonzalez followed with a double to right. But pitcher Jason Grilli rolled out to short, leaving Lee as the only Marlin to advance as far as third against Maddux.

"It's good to be on the team finally," Maddux said. "It's nice to finally help and contribute a little bit. I expect to be sore tomorrow. Hopefully, it won't be too bad."

The Braves, who collected just three hits in Thursday night's loss, left a pair of runners aboard in the second, then didn't advance another man past first base until the sixth.

Grilli, his elbow held together by a 21/2-inch titanium screw, escaped a one-out, first-and-second jam in the second, but couldn't weather a similar storm in the sixth.

Dave Martinez, replacing Brian Jordan in right field, singled and was forced at second by Andruw Jones' ground ball to short. Chipper Jones walked and B.J. Surhoff followed with a single for his first RBI. Rico Brogna walked to load the bases and Keith Lockhart swung through a full-count changeup for the second out.

Containing Javy Lopez, however, was another matter. Pinch hitting for Paul Bako, the catcher singled to left to make it 3-0 and Grilli was finished.

The game started to unravel following Maddux's departure. Mike Remlinger worked the sixth and regained his effectiveness just in time to prevent disaster. Cliff Floyd singled in a run, but Preston Wilson waved at a third-strike fastball and Mike Lowell tapped into an inning-ending double play, allowing Bobby Cox to breathe again in the visitors dugout.

In the seventh, Martinez, who had three of Atlanta's 11 hits, triggered a three-run rally when he hit a single through the middle. Andruw Jones followed with another single and Chipper Jones, who had taken some ribbing for trailing Rafael Furcal as the club's leading run producer, regained the team RBI lead. He took reliever Braden Looper deep on a 1-and-2 fastball, driving it into the right field seats for his first home run to make it 6-1.

But the Marlins, who have lost an average of 96 games in each of the last three seasons, refused to go quietly. They made life miserable for the bullpen, sending Kerry Ligtenberg to the showers in the seventh following three straight walks. Lowell then launched reliever Marc Valdes' 1-and-1 delivery over the left field scoreboard for a grand slam to close the gap to a skinny run.

"We've got to concentrate on slamming the door," said Chipper Jones, who restored a cushion with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning. "When we've got a team on the ropes, we've got to shut it."

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.