Padres pitching coach Dave Stewart took Andy Ashby aside before the game and told him not to get caught up in the hype of pitching against Greg Maddux.
Ashby listened. The lanky San Diego right-hander outdueled Maddux to become the NL's first 16-game winner and the Padres beat Atlanta 5-1 Wednesday night for their second straight win in the series between the NL's top two teams.
"It was tough, but he (Stewart) said, `You've still got to get the Braves out,"' Ashby said. "It was good he said that because once I stepped between the lines, I just thought about trying to make my pitches and doing what I had to do to keep it close and just give us a chance to win."
Ken Caminiti hit a two-run homer and the Padres won their first home series against Atlanta in 10 years. San Diego pulled within one game of the Braves in the race for home-field advantage should these teams meet in the NL championship series. The three-game series concludes Thursday afternoon.
Playing before a crowd of 40,597, Ashby (16-6) got out of a jam in the top of the sixth, then the Padres put Maddux (15-6) in trouble in the bottom of the inning.
Ashby beat the Braves for the second time this season. He got the lone San Diego victory during a four-game series at Atlanta in May. He also became the first Padres pitcher to win 16 games since Ed Whitson in 1989.
With runners on first and third and none out in the Braves sixth, Ashby struck out Andres Galarraga and Ryan Klesko, then got Michael Tucker to grond out. Keith Lockhart, who hit a solo homer in the first, walked to open the sixth and took third on Chipper Jones' hit-and-run single.
Stewart said that when he used to pitch against Roger Clemens, he had to remind himself that he needed to worry only about the Red Sox batters. That's why he told Ashby to ignore the hype.
"What he had to do was show he can get Galarraga out, Chipper Jones out, and some people that set the table for Galarraga, and you're going to be successful," Stewart said. "He showed the kind of pitcher that he's been all year. He's been a gutsy kid out there all year long."
Ashby allowed one run on five hits in seven innings, struck out eight and walked four. Randy Myers pitched a perfect eighth and Donne Wall retired all three Braves batters in the ninth, two by strikeout.
With two out in the Padres' sixth, the bases loaded and San Diego leading 2-1, Wally Joyner's sharp grounder skipped off the heel of Galarraga's glove at first base and rolled into right field for a two-run single.
Maddux, denied his first shot at his 200th win, threw 33 pitches that inning, allowing two singles and two walks, one intentional.
"My pitch selection wasn't real good to a couple of guys," Maddux said. "I actually threw OK but my pitch selection could have been better."
Maddux allowed four runs and six hits in six innings, his shortest outing since also going six on June 22. He struck out six and walked two. It was just the third time in his last 20 starts that Maddux allowed more than two earned runs.
With Tony Gwynn aboard on a two-out double in the fourth, Caminiti hit an opposite-field shot to left, his 22nd, for a 2-1 lead. Gwynn, an eight-time NL batting champion, has 35 hits off Maddux, the most against any pitcher in his career.
Maddux has allowed just seven homers this year, but two in his last three starts. The other was a three-run homer to Ray Lankford in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis on July 31.
San Diego added a run in the seventh on a pinch-hit single by Jim Leyritz.
In sweeping a three-game series at San Francisco before coming here, the Braves scored 26 runs on 38 hits. They've got just two runs on 11 hits this series.
"We were swinging the bats as well as we have all season," Jones said of the San Francisco series.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved