Originally created 04/22/01

Maddux loses thanks to Braves offense



PHILADELPHIA - The ultimate safety net has been rendered useless. Even Greg Maddux couldn't summon enough magic to raise the dead Saturday night, which is an apt description of a collection of bats as silent as a mausoleum.

Forced to be perfect when an out-of-sorts lineup failed to generate enough power to heat soup, Maddux allowed his first earned runs of the season as the Philadelphia Phillies kept the Braves winless on this trip, 4-1, before a crowd of 17,123 at Veterans Stadium.

The Braves, who were 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position, with neither hit leaving the infield, left the bases loaded in the seventh and left two runners stranded in three other innings. In all, Atlanta's hitters left 14 men on base and now are batting a collective .178 with runners in scoring position.

"I think there's a sense of frustration," first baseman Rico Brogna said. "This team wants so badly to get it going offensively that I think sometimes we have a tendency to put more pressure on ourselves to be the guy who gets it going."

The Phillies, who have won only five series against the Braves since 1993, have taken the first two games here to hand Atlanta its fourth series loss in six tries this season.

"You feel bad for the hitters," said Maddux, who took his first April loss since 1998, despite allowing only two earned runs. "They're trying. They'll come out of it; they're too good not to."

The Braves, who were not retired in order in any inning, outhit the Phillies 9-7 but made a pair of costly errors.

Maddux, who had pitched 23 innings this season without yielding an earned run, saw his perfection end in the fourth. With two outs, he left a 3-and-1 fastball over the heart of the plate to Travis Lee, and the Phils' first baseman took him deep into the right-field seats, the first home run Maddux had given up in 67ä innings.

It had been almost as long between home runs for Lee. His first home run of the season arrived 77 at-bats after his last one, which came Sept. 21, 2000.

"I was looking for that pitch," Lee said. "He threw me a fastball right in the middle. I was shocked."

In the fifth, Marlon Anderson, hitless in his brief career against Maddux, flared a double into right. He went to third on pitcher Robert Person's bunt, then was trapped in a rundown when Maddux sniffed out a suicide-squeeze try and pitched out.

But the Braves blew a play they spent hours working on during the spring. Third baseman Chipper Jones' relay hit Anderson in the back, and he scored to make it 2-0.

"We messed that up," manager Bobby Cox said. "We pitched out and got him, and got beat on it."

The Braves paid dearly for careless defense. Wes Helms' error on Lee's smash in the seventh opened the door to a pair of runs. Pat Burrell was nicked by a pitch and pinch-hitter Rob Ducey delivered a single to make it 3-0. Doug Glanville followed with a double to left, scoring Burrell.

For much of the night, the Braves seemed intent on lowering their batting average with runners in scoring position, which hardly seemed possible.

Chipper Jones, who had three hits in Friday night's loss, had runners in scoring position in his first three trips to the plate and came away empty. He struck out in the first, flied to left in the third and rolled out to second in the fifth, stranding a total of five runners.

The Braves loaded the bases in the seventh on singles by Rafael Furcal and Chipper Jones, and a walk to Quilvio Veras. But Brian Jordan chased a 3-and-2 offering from reliever Wayne Gomes, then Helms whiffed against reliever Rheal Cormier to end the threat.

"You get kind of tired of seeing a runner on second and you don't do the job," center fielder Andruw Jones said. "When things are not going good, you try and do too much."

Person staggered through six, allowing six hits and five walks. The Phillies' bullpen held the Braves scoreless until Chipper Jones' one-out double in the ninth scored Andruw Jones.

In keeping with April's theme, Jordan and Helms struck out with a runner on second to end the game.

"There's a sense of urgency for us to start putting it together," Brogna said. "The hitters want to pull their share of the load. When it comes, it's going to come collectively."

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.