Another good outing for Greg Maddux, who evened his record at 5-5, and another win for the Braves. Maddux threw only 71 pitches, 53 strikes, in a season-high eight innings, and took a shutout into the seventh. He got into some trouble then, allowing two runs, but got out of it with a good throw from Chipper and relay from Giles to cut down a runner at the plate. He got through the eighth, and Smoltz mowed them down (two strikeouts) in the ninth for the easy save.
Sheffield was the offensive star with a titanic homer in the fourth, but Marcus Giles had three hits and two runs scored, and the Personal Catcher two hits and a walk. Darren Bragg, playing for Andruw, was awful, going 0-4, striking out twice, and popping up foul on the first pitch with two out and the bases loaded against a pitcher with control problems. He’s at .136 now, and what does he have to do to be handed his walking papers? Die?
Digression from the recap: Offense is a chain, depending on the interaction of the individual actions of players. The Braves’ chain this year has been long and strong, but the weak link is the bench, and it showed last night. When all the outfielders are healthy, anything they get from Javy or Vinny is gravy. But when Andruw or one of the other outfielders is out, then they’re reliant upon getting key offensive contributions from someone they normally don’t count on. With Javy out too, Vinny’s suddenly your sixth-place hitter and coming up in big situations all night. He was 1-4, the hit one of his patented Vinfield singles, and is down to .277.
Javy was out again but wouldn’t have played anyway with Maddux pitching. Blanco’s now caught a complete turn through the order and hasn’t been any worse than mediocre, but Javy is expected back today. If he can’t go, the Braves have to disable him… As I mentioned, it’s a day game today, Mike Hampton versus another exile from Coors Field, Victor Santos. The Braves suddenly find themselves with a six and a half game lead on the Expos — who have lost five in a row — and eight on the Phillies. The last-place Marlins are now as close to second as the second-place Expos are to first.