Braves Headed To NLCS


Greg Maddux, it seems, will torment the Chicago Cubs forever.

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  • years after leaving town, the four-time Cy Young Award winner bounced his former team out of the playoffs. He pitched the Atlanta Braves to a 6-2 victory Saturday night that completed a three-game sweep and put the Braves in their seventh consecutive NL championship series.

    Atlanta advanced to meet the Houston-San Diego winner, starting Wednesday night at Turner Field. The Astros and Padres, tied at one game each, played Game 3 later Saturday.

    Maddux, who left the Cubs as a free agent after winning the first of his Cy Young Awards in 1992, also scored the Braves' first run while winning a rematch with Chicago rookie Kerry Wood.

    "For me, personally, it's probably the hardest park to pitch in after all that went on here. It takes a long time to let go. I did a good job of letting go but still it's the playoffs," Maddux said.

    "Time flies. This is a great park. I love pitching here with the atmosphere and the history I had in this park, but it's pretty hard for me sometimes," he said.

    The Braves added five more in the eighth off Chicago's bullpen, capped by a grand slam from Eddie Perez off Rod Beck for a 6-0 lead.

    Eduardo Perez
    Eddie Perez's grand slam propelled the Braves to the NLCS Saturday night. (AP)

    "Wood struck me out twice and when they took him out, I thought we would have more chances," Perez said. "He's one of the guys you don't want to face."

    The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth on straight singles by Jose Hernandez, Sandy Martinez and Lance Johnson, finishing Maddux. Mickey Morandini hit a sacrifice fly off Kerry Ligtenberg to make it 6-1.

    Sammy Sosa then struck out, finishing 2-for-11 with no homers in his first postseason experience, before Mark Grace hit an RBI single. Henry Rodriguez lined to center to end the threat.

    Sosa, who hit 66 homers, took a lap around the field after the game and threw his hat to the fans in his beloved right-field bleachers.

    The Cubs scored only four runs in the three games, facing Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.

    "When you have the type of pitchers like they have, they are not going to make a lot of mistakes," Sosa said.

    "I believe good pitching beats good hitting," Maddux said. "If you pitch a good game, you can beat anybody. And if you pitch a bad game, anybody can beat you. We're just glad we took care of ourselves. Whoever we play now, we play."

    Wood, pitching for the first time since Aug. 31 after being sidelined with a sprained elbow ligament, had beaten Maddux in July -- the Atlanta ace's first-ever loss against his former team following seven straight wins.

    "I felt good, there was a lot of emotion running through me. Last night I didn't get a lot of sleep," Wood said.

    "I was nervous the first couple of hitters but I got in the groove quickly and I thought I threw it well," he said.

    Maddux struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing three of his final five starts. But at Wrigley Field, he mixed his pitches and speeds, walking none and striking out three while allowing two runs in seven-plus innings.

    He's now 4-0 in divisional play and 9-7 in the postseason. The Braves have won 10 straight first-ound games, following their third straight three-game sweep in the opening series.

    "Maybe some year it will sink in, it really hasn't yet," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Atlanta's decade-long success. "I think it will be something that will be hard for any club to do with the format that is out there now."

    Maddux, whose departure is still a sore subject for the Cubs, doubled to center leading off the third, hustling into second base ahead of the throw. He moved to third on Keith Lockhart's grounder and scored when Wood's pitch got away from Tyler Houston for a passed ball.

    In the eighth, the Braves struck against the Cubs' two most reliable relievers -- Terry Mulholland and Beck.

    Lockhart singled and Chipper Jones walked to finish Mulholland. Beck got Andres Galarraga on a fly, but Gerald Williams hit a single over Rodriguez's head in left to make it 2-0.

    Both runners advanced when Hernandez double-clutched after taking the relay and threw wildly home. After an intentional walk to Andruw Jones loaded the bases, Perez -- starting ahead of Game 2 hero Javy Lopez -- lifted a grand slam to left.

    Lopez had hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning Thursday night as the Braves rallied for a 2-1 victory in 10 innings. Perez is Maddux's catcher of choice.

    The Cubs were in the playoffs for the first time since 1989 when they lost to the Giants. Maddux was pounded for 13 hits and 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings against San Francisco that year.

    Wood, going sleeveless on a 57-degree night with the wind blowing in from 18-to-25 mph, put runners on in every inning and threw 97 pitches in his five innings.

    The rookie, who fanned 20 hitters in a game this season, kept the Cubs close, giving up just a run on three hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

    Maddux worked his way out of a fifth-inning predicament after giving up singles to Gary Gaetti and Hernandez. He got Brant Brown on a fielder's choice grounder and then, after going 3-2 on Johnson, induced a fly ball into the teeth of the wind.

    Maddux temporarily went to the dugout in the third after fans littered the field with candy bars following Rodriguez's double off the left-field wall.

    Notes

  • Glenallen Hill 's wife, Lori, gave birth Friday to a baby girl, Heleyna Ivory in Santa Cruz, Calif. Hill flew to California early Friday and flew back to Chicago late that evening to be with his wife and daughter, who weighed in at 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Mother and daughter are doing "perfect," Hill said.
  • Pat Brickhouse , widow of former Cubs Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Brickhouse , threw out the first pitch.
  • The Bulls' Scottie Pippen sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" to lead the crowd in the seventh inning.
  • The Cubs have not been in the World Series since 1945 and have not won it since 1908.

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