Maddux in fine form as Braves nab 4-2 victory

Monday, May 6, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Greg Maddux didn't look like a pitcher who's still taking things slowly.

Maddux, on the disabled list for the first time in his career last month due to a lower back injury, pitched six shutout innings to lead the Atlanta Braves over the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 Sunday.

The right-hander threw only 65 pitches but still showcased his vast repertoire. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out six, including J.D. Drew three times.

"You very seldom see the same pitch twice," Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny said. "He has a game plan and he has a good memory of what he's done to you."

Now Maddux just needs to build his stamina.

"I got tired earlier than I would have liked to," he said. "Maybe I'll get better as the season goes along. Who knows?"

Andruw Jones homered for the Braves, who took two of three in the series despite scoring just eight runs. The Cardinals have lost 14 of 20 and have scored six runs in the last 34 innings.

They went 2-4 on their homestand to fall to 14-17. Manager Tony La Russa didn't like talking about his team's pitching woes -- six pitchers are on the disabled list.

"Nobody wants to hear excuses," La Russa said. "So we don't make them. We should be somewhat of a winning club and we've got things we can do better."

Gary Sheffield broke out of a long slump with three hits for Atlanta. He said he considered not playing after feeling a twinge in his injured wrist during batting practice when he swung at a ball over his head.

"In my first at-bat, I got jammed a little bit and that helped me cut down on my swing," Sheffield said. "I never lose confidence, that's something that never wavers."

Mike Remlinger worked a scoreless seventh, and John Smoltz got six outs for his 11th save in 12 chances.

Fernando Vina doubled in a run in the ninth for his fourth hit of the game, but Smoltz got Placido Polanco on a broken-bat comebacker with runners at second and third to end it.

Maddux (3-2) matched his longest outing of the season, finishing with strikeouts of Drew and Albert Pujols. The right-hander raised his career record against the Cardinals, one of his toughest foes, to 19-16 with a 2.56 ERA. It was his first victory over St. Louis since Sept. 6, 1999.

"I really just try to pitch, I don't really worry about who, where, or when," Maddux said. "What happened last year, or five or 10 years ago isn't really important."

Jones led off the second with his ninth home run, lining a pitch from Darryl Kile (1-2) off the upper deck facade in left -- a drive estimated at 435 feet. Jones also doubled and scored in the sixth on Wes Helms' sacrifice fly.

The Braves made it 2-0 in the third on a double by Sheffield and Chipper Jones' single. Sheffield, who entered in a 2-for-35 slump, extended the lead to 4-0 in the seventh with a run-scoring single.

Kile lasted six innings, giving up three runs on nine hits. He has a 7-12 career record against the Braves. A Cardinals trainer made a brief visit to the mound in the second inning, but Kile, who had offseason shoulder surgery, said there was no physical problem.

"They were just checking to make sure everything was right, and everything was fine," Kile said. "I made some pitches, they jumped on them, and that's all Greg needed."

Vina doubled off Tim Spooneybarger and scored on Pujols' groundout against Smoltz in the eighth.Noteworthy

***Drew was 1-for-12 in the series with eight strikeouts, fanning all four trips Sunday, and is among the NL leaders with 32. His lone hit in the series was a bunt single. "He's in a little funk," La Russa said.

***Cardinals 1B Tino Martinez had his first sacrifice bunt in nearly six years, since May 6, 1996, when he moved Edgar Renteria from first to second for the first out of the fifth.

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