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Maddux shuts down Mets, 4-2

The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) – After all the sniping between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, Greg Maddux gave both teams something to agree on – that pitching wins in the postseason.

Wednesday, October 13, 1999

ATLANTA (AP) – After all the sniping between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, Greg Maddux gave both teams something to agree on – that pitching wins in the postseason.

Maddux put an end to the offensive madness that ruled recent playoff games, and the Braves kept on beating New York with a 4-2 victory Tuesday night in the opener of the NL Championship Series.

”What happened last year, the last 10 years, who cares?” Maddux said. ”What matters is now.”

Of course, pitching has always been the ticket in October. And after Boston and Cleveland combined for 50 runs in two AL playoff games this week, Maddux restored order from the mound.

”We need three more games. We’re on the right track so far,” Maddux said.

Maddux worked seven innings, allowing only one run against a Mets lineup that once again had Mike Piazza. A day earlier, Maddux admitted he did not know what was being said in the clubs’ trash talking – he said he was too busy watching ”Franklin,” a cartoon show about a turtle, with his kids.

”He’s Greg Maddux. He doesn’t have all those trophies because he’s lucky,” Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. ”He did a great job.”

Maddux, Mike Remlinger and John Rocker combined on a six-hitter as the Braves beat New York for the 10th time in 13 meetings this year. Atlanta, which sent the Mets into a late tailspin that almost cost them the wild-card spot, has defeated them in 14 of the last 15 matchups at Turner Field.

”Better pitching,” Mets third baseman Robin Ventura, explaining the disparity.

Piazza came back after missing the final two games of the first-round win over Arizona because of a swollen left thumb. He drove in the Mets’ only run against Maddux with a groundout, and finished 0-for-4.

Piazza did not hit the ball out of the infield. The Braves also stole three bases against the All-Star catcher – he made a poor throw on one attempt and didn’t even make a throw on another.

”It doesn’t get any easier for us,” Piazza said. ”They know it’s not going to be an easy series.”

A crowd of 44,172 – 6,000 short of capacity, perhaps held down by an all-day rain that caused a four-minute delay at the start – saw Atlanta win the opening game of the NLCS at home. The previous two years, the Braves lost Game 1 at home and eventually lost the series.

Every year since 1991, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the NLCS. Atlanta has been in every one of those best-of-7 series.

”It’s better to win the first game,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. ”You like to win the first one.”

Game 2 was to be this afternoon, with Kevin Millwood, who pitched a one-hitter against Houston in the opening round, starting for the Braves against Kenny Rogers.

Maddux, a four-time Cy Young winner and a nine-time Gold Glover, gave an all-around performance in improving to 10-9 lifetime in the postseason. He beat the team that got eight straight hits off him Sept. 29 at Shea Stadium, put down a perfect sacrifice bunt and made several nice fielding plays.

Walt Weiss, making his first start since the last day of the regular season, had three hits and stole a base for the Braves.

Weiss doubled and scored on Gerald Williams’ single for a 2-1 lead in the fifth off losing pitcher Masato Yoshii. Eddie Perez homered in the sixth and Weiss hit an RBI single in the eighth.

Cox had been playing Jose Hernandez at shortstop ever since the Braves got him in a late-season deal with the Chicago Cubs. Hernandez was 5-for-7 lifetime against Yoshii, but Cox decided to start Weiss.

”That’s not the No. 1 thing we look at all the time,” Cox said. ”Walt is really a slick-fielding shortstop. Maddux tends to get a lot of ground balls.”

Rocker got four outs for a save. As is his custom, he ran in to relieve and, with a runner on second, threw fastballs of 97 mph, 94 and 97 to strike out John Olerud.

New York scored an unearned run in the ninth on Todd Pratt’s two-out single. A day earlier, Rocker was one of the most vocal Atlanta players, wondering aloud how Valentine ”can say a word” about the Braves.

The Mets missed a chance in the third when Yoshii missed a bunt try on a suicide-squeeze play.

As the Mets took the field, Valentine spoke with bench coach Bruce Benedict, filling in as the third-base coach while Cookie Rojas began his five-game suspension for shoving umpire Charlie Williams last weekend. New York remembered Rojas by hanging his jersey in the dugout.

Notes: Braves first baseman Andres Galarraga, sidelined all season by cancer, threw out the first ball. … Benedict last coached third base on a regular basis in 1996 under Valentine at Triple-A Norfolk. … The Mets’ streak of 110 straight innings without an error ended on left fielder Rickey Henderson’s miscue in the fifth. … Maddux was 3-1 against the Mets during the regular season.