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Maddux masters Cincinnati

The Associated Press

He understood why the question kept coming.

Wednesday, September 01, 1999

He understood why the question kept coming. Only 10 days after he fell and chipped a bone in his wrist, Maddux was throwing like a four-time Cy Young winner.

This isn’t supposed to happen.

Maddux pitched seven shutout innings Tuesday night, allowing only six hits, as the Atlanta Braves received some reassurance and added to their first-place lead with an 8-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Atlanta has won 10 of 11, sports the best record in the major leagues at 84-50 and now leads New York by 3 1/2 games in the NL East. The Mets lost to Houston 6-2 Tuesday.

Better yet, the Braves feel a whole lot better about Maddux, who gave them a scare when he hurt his right wrist while chasing a foul pop-up on Aug. 21.

He missed one start, then went out and showed no rust and no limitations against the Reds.

”There wasn’t anything wrong with Greg tonight,” manager Bobby Cox said. ”We’re excited that he could throw so well and pain-free.”

Maddux (17-6) has won his last seven starts, a stretch he attributes in part to offensive support. The Braves have averaged 6.4 runs when Maddux takes the mound this season.

Chipper Jones hit his career-high 35th homer and Eddie Perez, who has caught all of Maddux’s 28 starts, had a two-run homer to lead a balanced offense. Every starter except Maddux had a hit.

With the big lead, Maddux induced ground balls and let his defense do the rest. He adeptly pitched out of four scoring threats and shut down everyone except Sean Casey, who had a single, double and a triple for half of the Reds’ hits off Maddux.

It was 8-0 when Maddux left the game. Mark Lewis’ homer off Russ Springer in the eighth provided the Reds’ runs.

”I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of runs this year,” Maddux said. ”The runs helped. It seemed like all the mistakes I made they hit at somebody. I got away with a lot.”

He also gave a lot. He swung the bat hard and made a nice play on a high-hop grounder by Juan Guzman (4-2) to end one rally.

”Greg threw awesome, like he never skipped a beat,” Jones said. ”It’s going to take more games like that to get us where we want to go.”

The Reds find themselves in a rut that’s kept them at the threshold of where they want to go. They’ve lost six of nine to fall 1 1/2 games behind the Astros in the NL Central.

Four of those losses came against the Braves, who are 7-1 against Cincinnati this season and 23-5 over the last three years.

”I don’t know if it’s a big downer,” manager Jack McKeon said. ”Maddux was on tonight. Give him credit. He had the smooth delivery, he threw strikes and he threaded the corners. It was a typical Maddux performance.”

It was indeed. Maddux threw 55 strikes in 88 pitches, didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.

”I think his career kind of speaks for itself,” said Braves second baseman Bret Boone, who had a pair of hits. ”If there’s a pitcher who can do it, it’s him. He looked normal to me.”

The Reds certainly saw nothing wrong with him.

”No way,” Casey said. ”I didn’t think twice about that. I can’t believe his wrist was broken.”

Notes: Andruw Jones is 11-for-27 against the Reds this season with three homers and 11 RBIs. … Andruw Jones was thrown out at home trying to score on the back end of a double steal in the sixth. … During his seven-game winning streak, Maddux has given up 56 hits and 17 earned runs in 48 innings (a 3.19 ERA). … Since sitting down two games because of an extended slump, Casey has gone 13-for-24 in his last six games. … Greg Vaughn hasn’t homered in 48 at-bats, his longest drought of the season. … Brett Tomko made his first appearance since he was demoted to the bullpen, pitching the final two innings.