It might not be quite the marquee matchup it was in past seasons, but with both pitchers rounding into form, a Curt Schilling-Greg Maddux showdown still holds the promise of a legitimate pitchers’ duel.
Schilling has struggled with injuries this season, landing on the disabled list April 18-May 2 because of an appendectomy, and May 31-July 10 with broken bones in his right hand.
Since winning three straight decisions—all of them complete games—from April 17-May 14, the veteran right-hander has had a difficult time finding any consistency
On Tuesday, however, he gave up just six hits in seven innings of a 2-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Schilling struck out 11 batters, his most since returning from his second stint on the DL.
“I thought he was real good tonight,” Arizona manager Bob Brenly said of Schilling. “His splitter was outstanding. He had a nice backdoor cutter working from time to time to go strike one on hitters. And when he needed some extra gas he was able to reach back and put some extra on the heater.
“It was vintage Schilling tonight, and we needed it.”
The win was Schilling’s first since July 17. However, over that four-start span, he allowed only seven runs in 28 innings (2.25 ERA).
“We’re struggling to score runs consistently,” Schilling said. “That’s a fact. No one is trying any less. No one’s putting any less effort in. It is what it is.
“When you’re in a situation with an offense like this, you’ve got to throw a shutout to win every now and then. It’s not fair or wrong. It’s just the way it is.”
Maddux comes in off Tuesday’s 14-4 loss to the San Diego Padres. He gave up a season-high 13 hits while throwing just 67 pitches in five innings.
“He was fine,” manager Bobby Cox said. “I just didn’t want to leave him in there with that kind of deficit.”
Maddux, who was just 6-8 through June, had won five straight decisions while posting a 1.64 ERA prior to Tuesday’s setback.
On Saturday, the Braves beat the Diamondbacks 10-6—their fourth straight victory since a season-high three-game losing streak.
Danny Bautista doubled and drove in two runs for the Diamondbacks, who have lost three straight since a four-game winning streak. Arizona is four games behind Philadelphia in the NL wild card race.
STANDINGS: Diamondbacks - 2nd place, 9 1/2 GB, NL West. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
DIAMONDBACKS PROBABLE STARTER: Schilling (6-6, 2.65 ERA). Schilling is 11-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 36 career appearances, including 28 starts, against the Braves.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Maddux (11-9, 4.38 ERA). In nine career starts against the Diamondbacks, Maddux is 1-5 with a 4.76 ERA—his worst mark against any NL team.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Diamondbacks - Luis Gonzalez, .308 avg., 21 HRs, 80 RBIs and 76 runs; Steve Finley, 9 SBs. Braves - Gary Sheffield, .336 avg., 97 RBIs and 100 runs; Javy Lopez, 33 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 21 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 4-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Diamondbacks - C Rod Barajas, who was hit on the right thumb on a foul tip Friday night, sat out Saturday as a precaution. Brenly also gave OFs Gonzalez and Steve Finley the night off, which gave the Diamondbacks an entirely right-handed batting order against LHP Horacio Ramirez. … 2B Junior Spivey is 18-for-32 lifetime (.562) at Atlanta. … RHP Schilling is 5-2 with a 1.43 ERA in eight road starts this season. Braves - 1B Julio Franco is 7-for-34 (.206) with seven RBIs as a pinch-hitter this season. … The Braves have scored at least 10 runs 21 times (20-1) this season after reaching that mark only nine times last year. … RHP Paul Byrd has begun a stretching routine after undergoing “Tommy John” elbow surgery but is still expected to miss the rest of the season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Diamondbacks - 29-35 on the road; Braves - 44-18 at home.
INJURIES: Diamondbacks - 1B Mark Grace (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Mike Koplove (shoulder), 15-day DL; C Barajas (thumb), day-to-day. Braves - RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Roberto Hernandez (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL.