Originally created 09/18/02

Maddux records 14th victory



ATLANTA - Personal accomplishments do not matter a whole lot to Greg Maddux right now.

A future Hall-of-Famer, most questions regarding his successes on the baseball diamond are met with a sigh and a shrug. In other words, it's team first. Any career accolades will gladly be accepted and relished once his playing days are through.

Still, with the flag celebrating the Atlanta Braves' 11th consecutive National League East title already hanging beneath the upper deck in left-center field, Maddux could be excused if he decided to make an exception.

Thanks to Tuesday night's 2-1 decision against visiting Philadelphia, he is now one victory away from matching Cy Young as the only pitcher in history to earn 15 or more wins in 15 consecutive seasons.

If he does, maybe then he'll break character and revel in the feat.

"If we hadn't clinched already, it (winning the game) would be very important," he said. "But since we have... obviously, I wouldn't mind doing it. But being that we've already won the thing, outside of me, who cares? All I know is I've got two more starts. I want to win both of them. If not, I've got the playoffs to try and improve."

Maddux (14-10), who gave up the lone Philadelphia run on four hits with three strikeouts and no walks in seven innings, isn't the only Brave approaching baseball immortality.

John Smoltz, who came on after Chris Hammond with two out in the eighth after a double to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 52nd save, one shy of the National League record of 53 shared by Randy Myers (1993) and Trevor Hoffman (1998). Former Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen holds the major league record of 57 set in 1990.

"That's going to be big for me, but this was a bigger one for Doggie (Maddux)," Smoltz said. "That's very select company he's about to join. I'm just happy I was able to help him out."

Maddux, who retired the first 10 batters he faced, will have two more opportunities to tie Cy. He's tentatively scheduled to pitch Sunday's home finale against Florida before his final regular-season start Sept. 27 at New York.

"Maddux showed why he is one of the best pitchers this game has ever seen," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. "When he's on like he was tonight, the only thing you can do is tip your cap."

Offensively, third baseman Vinny Castilla showed signs of shaking off his second-half slump with three of Atlanta's 10 hits, but the story of the game was Maddux.

Working on three-days rest for just the 34th time in his 16-year career, he bore no resemblance to the pitcher who was tagged for six first-inning runs by Florida Friday night.

"I try not to worry about the outcome of games," Maddux said, referring to his debacle against the Marlins. "My last start may have looked bad but I didn't think I pitched that bad. I threw pretty much the same pitches tonight. Fortunately, I had some pretty good defense behind me."

Phillies starter Vicente Padilla (14-11) was almost as impressive.

Boasting a record of 2-1 versus Atlanta this year, including a 2-0 mark at Turner Field and an earned run average of 1.50, the right-hander held the Braves to four hits through four innings. A bloop single by Gary Sheffield in the fifth scored Mark DeRosa who led off with a double down the line in right.

The Braves added a run in the sixth on Henry Blanco's sacrifice fly to left scoring Keith Lockhart from third to make the score 2-0.

Mike Lieberthal's RBI single in the seventh cut the margin to 2-1.

NOTE: DeRosa was a late substitution for shortstop Rafael Furcal who was still feeling the effects of the flu.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.