Atlanta climbed above .500 (9-8) for the first time this season and within a half-game of the division-leading Montreal Expos, whose game against Cincinnati was rained out.
“We never panicked,” Castilla said. “Yeah, we had a rough start, but we knew we had great players here and things would turn around. We’re playing better. We’re playing the way the Braves have played the last 11 years.”
The Braves, who have won 11 straight division titles, were swept at home by Montreal to start the season. They turned things around on the road, winning the last four games of a nine-game trip.
“We were always going to finish up the season,” manager Bobby Cox said sarcastically.
Maddux left trailing 4-1. The four-time Cy Young winner gave up eight hits and three earned runs in 5 2-3 innings, though he still managed to lower his ERA from 8.27 to 7.52.
“There was a guy on third every inning, it seemed like,” Maddux said. “Didn’t it? Or was it me? I was in a lot of jams.”
The Braves bailed out their starter in the sixth, taking advantage of some shoddy Phillies defense.
Marcus Giles led off with a grounder to third, but the ball went right through the legs of Tyler Houston for a two-base error. Gary Sheffield singled and Chipper Jones walked to load the bases against Randy Wolf (2-1) with no outs.
Carlos Silva came out of the bullpen to face Castilla, who lined a drive to center field. Ricky Ledee played it terribly, taking a step in, then turning the wrong way as the ball sailed over his glove for a gift double. Both runners scored to give the Braves their first lead of the night.
“It was a very tough play,” Castilla said. “I hit the ball hard.”
Ledee saw it differently.
“It was too close to me,” he said. “I just missed it. It should have been caught.”
The Braves bullpen threw 3 2-3 scoreless innings, with John Smoltz working a perfect ninth—including two strikeouts—for his sixth save in as many opportunities.
“He’s pretty automatic,” Phillies manager Larry Bowa said.
Bowa isn’t surprised by Atlanta’s turnaround the past week.
“I don’t think you saw any baseball people throwing dirt on the Braves,” he said. “The Braves are still the team to beat in our league.”
The Braves made it 2-1 in the second on Henry Blanco’s two-out, run-scoring double.
Philadelphia knocked out Maddux in the sixth, loading the bases with one out to set up Ledee’s two-run single to right.
“My mechanics were a little off,” Maddux said. “I’m trying to get them back.”
After Wolf sacrificed the runners, Kevin Gryboski (1-1) got out of the inning by retiring Bell on a groundout. That one out was enough to earn Gryboski the win.
Wolf allowed five hits in 5 1-3 innings. He was charged with four earnedruns.
Maddux and Wolf had similar lines, right down to their pitch counts. Maddux threw 96 pitches, 62 for strikes. Wolf had 61 strikes among his 97 pitches. … Sheffield extended his hitting streak to 15 games with his sixth-inning single, but Furcal’s nine-game streak came to an end. He went 0-for-4. … LF Chipper Jones was back in the Braves’ starting lineup. He didn’t start the previous two games because of a strained left groin. He did pinch-hit the previous night against Montreal. … The Phillies (9-8) alreadyhave won as many games as they did all last April.