When Greg Maddux is on, it’s like he’s playing a different game than the other Braves starters. Even when they’re effective, Ortiz, Hampton, and Ramirez labor to get through most of their innings. Maddux usually doesn’t. Pitching six shutout innings last night, he needed 88 pitches — a high total for him. He struck out five and walked one. He needed some good defense in the fifth and sixth to keep the Brewers off the board, but it was a strong outing. Maddux has won five straight decisions and in six of his last seven starts has allowed two or fewer earned runs. His ERA is 4.24, high for him but second among Braves’ starters.
It’s a lot easier to pitch when you have a big lead, as Maddux had all night. The Braves jumped on top with three runs in the first, followed by three more in the second and one in the third. Marcus hit a titanic solo homer and Andruw a two-run blast in the first, Marcus a three-run shot in the second, and Julio Franco, of all people, a solo homer in the third. Andruw hit another two-run homer in the fifth, and almost made it three with a drive to the wall in the seventh. The Braves got another run on a wild pitch in the sixth, but it was the homers that drove the offense. After having trouble making solid contact in the first game of the series, there was no trouble last night, and when you do make contact the ball seems to fly out of the House that Bud Got Milwaukee To Build For Him.
The Braves maximized their baserunners, thanks to the homers, stranding only four. Everybody got a hit but Vinny (who walked) and everybody scored except for, again, Vinny. The Personal Catcher, perhaps shamed by Eddie Perez’s double on Tuesday, had two hits.
Jason Marquis pitched the seventh, allowing one hit but striking out two. Jung Bong struggled in the eighth, allowing a two-run homer to pitcher/pinch hitter Brooks Kieschnick (who’s hitting .340 with a 4.76 ERA — why can’t we have a twelfth pitcher like that?) and Boom-Boom managed to not give up any runs in the ninth because Chipper threw a runner out at the plate. (“Hey, we’re down eight runs, let’s be aggressive!”)
Hampton goes in a day game today. The Phillies lost and the Marlins won. The Braves’ lead is back to 11, but more importantly, the Marlins are now just a game out of the wild card.