Taking full advantage of a few Maddux mistakes and receiving another splendid pitching performance from Roman Colon at Turner Field on Tuesday night, the Braves claimed a 5-1 victory over the Cubs and moved 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.
"Yeah, we capitalized on some pitches," said Marcus Giles, who enjoyed a three-hit, three-RBI performance. "But I think the main story of the night was how well Roman threw. He kept us in the whole game."
While the pregame focus was on Maddux making his return to Atlanta, Colon allowed just one run in seven innings and, for at least one night, proved to be the better of the two pitchers. A curveball, that John Smoltz helped him develop over the past week, enabled the 25-year-old former reliever to be better than he'd been in his previous two career starts.
"It made all the difference in the world," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of the curveball. "He looked like a veteran pitcher tonight. He threw hard, and he had that pitch going. It made the whole night for him."
The Braves, who have won 14 of their past 19 games, have claimed victory in two of the three games Colon has started. He's surrendered runs in just three of the 19 innings he's pitched. In other words, he's much different than he was when he posted an 8.50 ERA in the 18 innings he tallied as a reliever earlier this year. Those struggles earned him a trip back to the Minors on June 12.
"I'm not saying I can be in the rotation now, but maybe in the future I could consider myself one of the starters," said Colon, who earned his first big league win as a starter in what was just his third career start.
The Braves did most of their offensive damage in a four-run fifth inning that was highlighted by a Giles two-run double and made possible because of the only walk Maddux would issue.
"When you get situations to score off a pitcher like that, it's mandatory that you score," said Giles, whose fifth three-hit game of the season increased his batting average over the past 11 games to .387 (14-for-37).
Making his first start back in Atlanta since leaving after the 2003 season, Maddux, who won 194 games for the Braves, received a friendly ovation from his former hometown fans. But because he allowed five earned runs and eight hits in six innings, the evening also possessed its forgettable moments.
"It was just another game," Maddux said. "Time takes care of issues. I'm grateful for what the Braves gave me. It was a privilege to play for them. I enjoyed coming back."
Always known for his unbelievable control, it was ironic that Maddux's homecoming was marred by a two-out walk he issued Rafael Furcal. That prolonged the fifth inning long enough for Giles to deliver his two-run double in between RBI singles from Kelly Johnson and Andruw Jones.
"Maddux is Maddux," Jones said. "He's a Hall of Fame pitcher and he's got good stuff. But when he makes a mistake, that's when you've got to take advantage."
Colon ended his evening in fine fashion. He escaped a one-out, bases-loaded, seventh-inning situation by striking out Jose Macias and getting Neifi Perez to hit a harmless flyball. Moments later, heavy rains caused the game to be delayed for 1 hour and 59 minutes.
|Roman Colon / P|
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"You've just got to keep the game as close as you can and good things will happen," Colon said. "Every time I go out there I'm just trying to give the team the opportunity to win."
Since his departure, Maddux's only other start against the Braves came when he allowed them six earned runs in six innings on the final day of the 2004 regular season. He won that afternoon against a makeshift lineup. But in the two starts against his former team, he's posted an 8.25 ERA.
While unimpressive, the statistics aren't as staggering as the ones produced by Glavine, who is 1-8 with an 8.81 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves. In six career starts as an opposing pitcher at Turner Field, the southpaw is 1-5 with an 8.61 ERA.
Each of the five batters the Braves sent to the plate in the first inning hit the ball sharply against Maddux. But had Giles not followed Johnson's double with an RBI single to deep center, they wouldn't have even come away with the one run they produced.
In typical Maddux fashion, he had his fastball dancing enough to get five different Braves to look at strike three. In fact, after Johnny Estrada began the second inning with a double, the former Braves great got Ryan Langerhans, Wilson Betemit and Colon to end their at-bats with their bats on their shoulders.
"I thought he was dealing," Cox said. "We hit three balls good. We placed the ball real nice tonight."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.