PHILADELPHIA - Having spent the better part of Tuesday night's game standing in a cold, damp tunnel, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox was thrilled to awaken to rain Wednesday morning.
Unfortunately for the Braves, the drizzle petered out about noon, forcing them back into their long underwear and ski caps.
Cox would have preferred the game be rained out, giving him time to contemplate his pitching rotation, but the Phillies proceeded with plans to remove the Braves from the division race, making it two in a row against the perennial champs with a 16-2 win before 14,724 fans who braved another night of freezing temperatures.
As jarring as that might have been for the Braves, it still paled compared with the drilling Greg Maddux received at the hands of another lineup intent on proving his days as the staff ace are over.
The Phillies knocked out Maddux with four runs in the sixth, piling up 12 hits and 10 runs, seven earned, in 5 2/3 innings against him. The four-time Cy Young winner dropped to 0-3, his worst April since 1989, and has yielded 29 hits and 24 runs in 14 2/3 innings this season.
The home team made the Braves feel like unwelcome house guests, leading 4-0 before the Braves reached the scoreboard and refusing to go in order in any inning except the third.
Pat Burrell, the Phillies' left fielder, took Maddux deep twice, clubbing a two-run home run in the first and adding a three-run shot in the sixth to match his career-high with five RBI.
The bullpen poured accelerant on the flames. Jung Bong balked in a run in the sixth, then Phillies strongman Jim Thome crushed Joe Dawley's 0 and 1 fastball for a three-run home run the next inning. Thome added a two-run home run against Dawley in the eighth to finish with five RBI.
After Maddux's last start, when he gave up eight hits and nine runs in two innings against the Florida Marlins and lost, 17-1, Cox suggested he had never seen him pitch worse. Maddux came close to forcing Cox to amend that statement, his pitches straying toward the middle of the plate where the Phillies feasted on them.
There are worse ways to start a game than surrendering three unearned runs, and Maddux has explored them all. In his first three starts, he has trailed 4-0, 3-0, and 3-0 after the first inning, and the Braves have been outscored 43-5 in his games.
Wednesday's misadventure started with Jimmy Rollins, the Phils' leadoff man, who tapped to second baseman Mark DeRosa and was safe when first baseman Robert Fick came off the base early. Bobby Abreu's fielder's choice eventually scored Rollins, and two batters later Pat Burrell launched Maddux's 1-and-0 fastball over the center field wall, his first home run of the season.
Tomas Perez's tapper and Maddux's subsequent throwing error the next inning set the stage for Rollins' run-scoring line single to center.
The Braves, who have made deficit baseball their calling card this season, dropped into a 6-1 hole in the fourth. Marlon Byrd singled and he was on the move when Rollins lashed a double into the right field corner. Byrd scored, then Placido Polanco lined a single to center, sending in Rollins.
The three errors raised the Braves' nine-game total to 15, accounting for nine unearned runs. More ominously, the Braves have trailed in 51 of the 82 innings they have played this season.
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