ATLANTA - Milwaukee manager Davey Lopes said he felt a little uneasy prior to Wednesday night's game against the Atlanta Braves.
Not only were his Brewers having to face ace Greg Maddux, but they were having to do so after the Arizona Diamondbacks had roughed up the future Hall of Famer for seven earned runs in his last start six days before.
In other words, the chances of Maddux getting shellacked two times in a row was akin to Lopes picking the right numbers to win the Big Game Lottery.
Actually, he might have stood a better chance.
In a word, Maddux was dominating as he pitched a complete-game two-hitter and set a career-high with 14 strikeouts, leading Atlanta to a 1-0 victory in front of a Turner Field crowd of 24,802.
"That's probably as good as I can throw," said Maddux, who lowered his earned run average to 1.94. "I'm not sure what else I can do."
Neither do the Brewers.
"Unbelievable," said right fielder Jeremy Burnitz who struck out three times in three at-bats. "We were absolutely helpless. It's like the guy was Superhuman or something."
On this night, Maddux was.
Not only was his latest masterpiece the second two-hitter of the four-time Cy Young Award winner's career, but it was also his 32nd shutout and 100th complete game.
"I had no idea," said Maddux when told of the milestone. "That's kind of cool. I'm sure it will mean more later on, but right now I'm just happy that we got the win."
Maddux, whose previous career high in strikeouts was 13 in a win last September against Montreal, has enjoyed success against Milwaukee (14-12) before.
In four previous outings against the Brewers, Maddux (3-2) was 2-1 with an earned run average of 1.42 after giving up just five earned runs in 31.2 innings of work.
Those numbers were reduced considerably after Wednesday's latest gem, one which saw Maddux retire 11 straight batters after giving up a walk to Ronnie Belliard leading off the game.
With Tyler Houston at the plate, Belliard tried to jump-start the Milwaukee offense by stealing second but was promptly thrown out by catcher Paul Bako.
Only two more Brewers reached base the rest of the night.
"I can't say anything that's going to top what Maddux did," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The guy was phenomenal, just phenomenal. I don't know what else you can say."
Devon White's two-out double in the fourth broke up the string but he didn't advance any further as Richie Sexson grounded out to short ending the inning.
By that time, Atlanta (13-15) already enjoyed a 1-0 lead thanks to B.J. Surhoff's solo home run off of Brewer starter Paul Rigdon, a shot that carried into the bullpen in right-center field.
That's all the support that Maddux would need.
Milwaukee managed a two-out single from former Brave Jose Hernandez in the fifth but Maddux left him stranded right there as he retired the final 13 Brewer batters, eight via the strikeout route, including Houston on a 1-2 pitch to end the game.
Rigdon couldn't have pitched much better himself.
Aside from Surhoff's home run, the Brewer right-hander was outstanding as he scattered five hits before being pulled with two out in the eighth inning. The 7ä innings represented a career-high for the 25-year old who walked three and struck out six.
"That's the first time we'd ever seen Rigdon and he did a great job too," said Cox, whose Braves snapped a three-game losing streak. " "You kind of feel sorry for the guy. He pitches what's probably the game of his life and gets beat. But that just shows you how good Maddux was."
Atlanta did have other opportunities to score.
After Rigdon retired the first three batters he faced, the Braves had runners on base in inning threes through five but could not drive any home, including two who were left stranded at second and third when Rafael Furcal popped out to short ending the fifth.
The Braves' only other scoring opportunity came in the ninth when Furcal walked, went to second a on a groundout by Andruw Jones but was left on second when Surhoff hit into a fielder's choice ending the inning.
Fortunately Atlanta, its lack of execution didn't cost them the game.
The Braves can thank Maddux for that.
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