ATLANTA - For as much abuse as Paul Bako has taken this season about runners stealing bases on him this season, Friday night should have been something to brag about.
Bako, though, deflected all praise after the Braves' 1-0 win over Pittsburgh in front of 28,120 at Turner Field Friday night.
"The ball I threw on the first steal (Jason) Kendall had I threw just as good as I did in the eighth," Bako said. "We got the ball up there the second time."
Two Pirates had stolen off of Bako and starter Greg Maddux earlier in the game. First in the third inning, Kendall stole second and then in the fourth catcher Keith Osik stole second.
But both times the Pirates were unable to capitalize.
Kendall, playing just his second game in the outfield, led off the top of the eighth with a single. He then tried to steal second, just as he had in the third.
Braves manager Bobby Cox thought Kendall might be stealing and called a pitchout.
"Bobby had a hunch they were going and Doggie (Maddux) got me the ball in plenty of time and I made a pretty good throw," Bako said.
John Vander Wal followed with another single, and then Aramis Ramierz singled to put the Pirates into their best scoring situation of the night.
Maddux had been able to get out of several other jams, and did it again, striking out Brian Giles. The Pirates were running on the full count and Bako threw out Vander Wal at third to end the inning.
"With Giles up, the Pirates were relying on him to put the ball in play somewhere because he never strikes out," Bako said. "Doggie made a good pitch and froze him and we had a good chance at third base there. There's no guarantee if they score if I don't throw any of the guys out."
"Bako was outstanding - he saved the game right there," Maddux said. "It just goes to show that you don't have to get a hit to help the team win. He literally won the game for us right there throwing those guys out. He doesn't make those throws, we lose."
Maddux (4-4) did his part as well, throwing the 33rd shutout of his career and gave up just seven hits and walked two - without his best stuff.
"He was frustrated at times, not to take anything away from the Pirates," Bako said. "He got away with some mistakes, and some line drives were hit at people instead of finding holes. I think he's still struggling to get to the top of his game."
His opponent, Todd Ritchie (0-6), did his best Maddux impression. The right-hander threw eight innings and gave up just five hits and walked one.
The difference was, he gave up a run.
"I don't feel sorry for him," Maddux said. "I'm not going to lie. Obviously things happen. If he throws like he did tonight, the next time out will be a win."
After the Bako's two defensive plays in the top of the eighth, the Braves were able to rally to put up the lone run of the game.
Chipper Jones, pinch-hitting for Bako, and Maddux flew out to start the inning. Then Quilvio Veras singled and stole second.
And just as stolen bases were key for the Pirates, a big stolen base helped Atlanta. Veras stole second, but television replays showed the Pirate shortstop Abraham Nunez tagged the sliding Veras on the foot before he reached the bag. Veras was called safe and Rafael Furcal delivered with a double to the centerfield wall, scoring Veras.That was enough for Maddux, who finished off the ninth with two great defensive plays on comebackers to the mound. First baseman Rico Brogna had two nice defensive plays as well in the inning - one scooping out a low throw from Maddux and snagging a line drive from Osik to end the game.
"Tonight was a perfect example of how the Braves can win," Brogna said. "We had great pitching, good defense and a timely hit. When you talk about baseball, you talk about those three things. Our success, more often than not, is going to rely on that."