Maddux brought pitching back to this postseason and the Braves reminded the Mets who's still boss with a 4-2 victory Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
And with that, all the verbal sparring between the teams leading up to the series took a backseat to dominant pitching.
"We need three more games. We're on the right track so far," Maddux said.
After two days in which baseball fans across the country saw Boston and Cleveland combine for 50 runs in two AL playoff games, the Braves did what they do best.
"He's Greg Maddux. He doesn't have all those trophies because he's lucky," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "He did a great job."
Maddux, Mike Remlinger and Rocker combined on a six-hitter as the Braves beat New York for the 10th time in 13 meetings this year. Atlanta, which sent the Mets into a late tailspin that almost cost them the wild-card spot, has defeated them in 14 of the last 15 matchups at Turner Field.
"What happened last year, the last 10 years, who cares?" Maddux said. "What matters is now."
Piazza returned to the lineup after missing the final two games of the first-round win over Arizona because of a swollen left thumb. He drove in the Mets' only run against Mddux with a groundout and finished 0-for-4.
Piazza did not hit the ball out of the infield. The Braves also stole three bases against the All-Star catcher he made a poor throw on one attempt and didn't even make a throw on another.
"It doesn't get any easier for us," Piazza said. "They know it's not going to be an easy series."
A crowd of 44,172 it was 6,000 short of capacity, perhaps held down by an all-day rain that caused a four-minute delay at the start saw Atlanta win the opening game of the NLCS at home. The previous two years, the Braves lost Game 1 at home and eventually lost the series.
Every year since 1991, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the NLCS. Atlanta has been in every one of those best-of-7 series.
"It's better to win the first game," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "You like to win the first one."
Maddux, a four-time Cy Young winner and a nine-time Gold Glover, gave an all-around performance in improving to 10-9 lifetime in the postseason. He beat the team that got eight straight hits off him Sept. 29 at Shea Stadium, put down a perfect sacrifice bunt and made several nice fielding plays.
Walt Weiss, making his first start since the last day of the regular season, had three hits and stole a base for the Braves. He doubled and scored on Gerald Williams' single for a 2-1 lead in the fifth and, after Eddie Perez homered in the sixth, added an RBI single in the eighth.
"He did a great job against their lineup," Weiss said of Maddux. "Our pitchers have handled them for the most part. That's the difference."
Rocker got four outs for a save. As is his custom, he ran in to relieve and, with a runner on second, threw fastballs of 97 mph, 94 and 97 to strike out John Olerud.
He allowed an unearned run in the ninth on Todd Pratt's two-out single.
A day earlier, Rocker was one of the most vocal Atlanta players, wondering aloud how Valentine "can say a word" about the Braves.
|The Mets are going to have to keep making plays like Roger Cedeno's catch in the fifth, if they want to stay in the series.|
The Braves took a 1-0 lead after two batters. Williams singled up the middle on the first pitch and quickly tested Piazza, stealing well ahead of the catcher's one-hop throw to the wrong side of the bag.
Bret Boone followed with an RBI single and when Chipper Jones walked, pitching coach Dave Wallace marched to the mound and Orel Hershiser began warming up. Yoshii settled down right away, retiring 12 of the next 13 batters.
The Mets missed a chance to score in the third after Yoshii missed a bunt on a suicide-squeeze play. After Yoshii grounded out to end the inning, he was so upset that Valentine had to settle down his pitcher talking to him in Japanese.
As the Mets took the field, Valentine spoke with bench coach Bruce Benedict, filling in as the third-base coach while Cookie Rojas began his five-game suspension for shoving umpire Charlie Williams last weekend. New York remembered Rojas by hanging his jersey in the dugout.
The Mets made it 1-all in the fourth on Piazza's RBI grounder off Maddux.
"He threw a good game, no question about it," Piazza said. "We didn't have many opportunities."
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