Greg Maddux, Rain God. For the third time this year, a Braves game was interrupted by rain when Maddux was pitching and pitching well. In all three he’s come back after the rain, and is 2-0 with three total runs allowed, all on solo homers. I seriously doubt that means anything except that he’s always economical with pitches and Bobby feels comfortable bringing him back after a delay since he’s unlikely to work too hard. It may be that Maddux is better when he’s a little tired. He threw only 64 pitches — 42 strikes — in six innings, striking out five (with no walks, of course) allowing three hits, one a solo homer by Piazza. The other two runners were erased on a pickoff and a DP.
The Braves’ offense was basically Chipper, who hit a three-run homer in the third, then singled in a run in the fourth. The Braves had a number of chances to add more runs early but couldn’t get a hit. They had fifteen baserunners — ten hits and five walks — only to strand eleven. Everybody but Furcal reached at least once.
Here’s the dirty little secret about “closing” ballgames. It’s really not that hard most of the time. Take tonight, where with a three-run lead Kent Mercker closed it out. It was his first save since his brief runs as Braves closer in 1990-1992, the twentieth of his career. He allowed a hit and a walk, but got out of it.
When the game was on the line, it was actually Will Cunnane that got the call. That’s fine with me, since he’s been the Braves’ best reliever after Smoltz. With the 4-1 lead in the seventh, Gryboski loaded the bases with two out with a walk and two HBPs. Cunnane came in to strike out Tony Clark, then pitched a perfect eighth.
The Phillies and Marlins lost again, the Phillies to the Expos. The Braves’ magic number is 16 and their lead 15.