Originally created 06/11/02

Minnesota outlasts Atlanta

MINNEAPOLIS - Three batters into the game, Greg Maddux trailed 1-0.

Two batters later, Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone was out for a chat.

By the time Maddux trudged back to the dugout, he had faced nine hitters and was down 5-0.

If the first inning seemed like an eternity, the rest of Monday night's 6-5, 15-inning loss to the Minnesota Twins was only a little shorter, which did nothing to erase the sour postseason memories the Braves have held of the Metrodome for the past 11 years.

Maddux allowed five runs in the first, but nothing more over the next six innings, then University of Minnesota grad Kerry Ligtenberg, the Braves' fifth reliever, gave up Cristian Guzman's two-out double in the home half of the 15th, sending in Tom Prince with the winning run.

The Braves were poised to take a lead in the top of the 11th, Chipper Jones singling, advancing to second on reliever J.C. Romero's wild pitch, and moving to third on Andruw Jones' infield out. But Vinny Castilla and Wes Helms tapped out to end the threat.

Again in the 14th, the Braves advanced a runner to second base, but Rafael Furcal, hitless in seven trips, went down swinging to waste another opportunity.

The Braves have played 11 extra-inning games this season.

The first inning was one of the most humiliating of Maddux's illustrious career. He gave up singles to the first five batters he faced and six of the first seven, burying the Braves in a hole they spent six innings digging out from against Twins lefthander Eric Milton.

Three of the first four batters singled on his first pitch, and the six hits the Twins collected in the first inning matched Maddux's total in his last start against the Mets last Wednesday.

The loss snapped the Braves' six-game win streak, their longest since winning seven in a row last June. Even so, they have won 12 of their last 15, and 18 of 24.

The last time the Braves were here, they were unable to prevent the Twins from winning the seventh game of the 1991 World Series, 1-0, which the Twins delighted in recapping on the left field video board before the start of Monday's game.

It wasn't nearly so difficult to score against Maddux.

The first five Twins singled and scored, matching the worst first inning of Maddux's career. But no other runner advance beyond first base until the fifth, when Doug Mientkiewicz walked, and Matthew LeCroy singled. Maddux then induced Torii Hunter to roll into a double play to end the threat.

By that time, the Braves were back in the game, having scored three runs against Milton in the top of the fifth. Chipper Jones opened the inning with a double into the right field corner, then Andruw Jones singled, and Castilla's single sent in Chipper Jones. Henry Blanco followed with another single to make it 5-2, then Jesse Garcia hustled down the line and barely beat shortstop Guzman's relay, scoring Castilla.

Chipper Jones ended his home run drought at 103 at-bats, five shy of his career-high, in the sixth, following a walk to Gary Sheffield by swatting Milton's 0-and-2 mistake into the left field seats, a drive estimated at 360 feet.

Maddux was lifted after seven, having given up just four singles after the first inning. Mike Remlinger then pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, Chris Hammond worked the ninth, and Kevin Gryboski delivered two scoreless innings, but Ligtenberg couldn't dodge trouble in the 15th after Prince reached on an infield hit.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.


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