The Braves have won 12 of 14 following a 4-8 start, and Maddux
also has recovered nicely.
"I felt like I got away with a lot of mistakes the first couple
of innings,'' he said. "But I pitched better the last couple of
innings. The first couple of games, it seemed like they whacked it
pretty good. Since then I've been catching some breaks.''
The right-hander lost his first three starts for the first time
in his career, at which point he had an 11.05 ERA. But he held
Houston to just one run and five hits, outpitching Roy Oswalt.
"At this time, the biggest thing is I've gotten outs on
mistakes,'' Maddux said. "But that's the way it goes. The first
couple of games, I didn't pitch that bad, and the last couple of
games I haven't pitched that good.''
"The only selfish goals I have are to pitch in as many games as
we win,'' Smoltz said. "I don't want to blow two in a row. I guess
I want to keep the streak alive as long as I can.''
After that, Maddux (3-3) limited the Astros to three hits and
didn't allow a runner past second base. He struck out five and
didn't walk a batter, improving to 22-9 lifetime against Houston.
Oswalt (2-3) got off to his second consecutive rough start,
allowing two runs and four hits in the first inning. He gave up
three runs in the first three innings last Wednesday in a 4-2 loss
to the New York Mets.
"When things are going bad, everything seems to fall in,''
Oswalt said. "The first inning, they hit a ball on the line, then
they got two runs fast and after that I settled down.
"My mechanics felt good. I threw the ball good. It was just in
the first inning that two balls got through and they got two runs
and that was enough.''
After a single by Robert Fick with two outs, Oswalt settled into
a rhythm and retired the next 14 batters until he walked Sheffield
with one out in the sixth.
Oswalt went seven innings, allowing six hits. He struck out
seven and walked two.
"Roy pitched a good game, but Maddux pitched better,'' Astros
manager Jimy Williams said. "He minimized the damage in the first
inning, then he battled back and kept us in the game.
"But Maddux was too tough.''
Fick came off the disabled list after recovering from a
sprained right shoulder and started at first base. ... Houston
returned home from a 13-game road trip. ... Thirteen of Houston's
17 errors came in the first 13 games. ... Bagwell went 0-for-4,
snapping his seven-game hitting streak. ... Astros OF Lance Berkman
was ejected after a called third strike leading off the seventh
inning when he argued with plate umpire Terry Craft.