Short rest didn't hamper Maddux, but mistakes did
Updated: Sunday October 21, 2001 2:28 AM
By Ryan Hunt, CNNSI.com
ATLANTA - It's just 24 hours. And, no, we're not talking about the new Kiefer Sutherland show that is being incessantly promoted during commercial breaks this postseason.
To mere pitching mortals, the difference between working on three days' rest and starting in the normal turn of the rotation has a big effect. Greg Maddux isn't just your ordinary pitcher.
In Saturday's 11-4 loss to Arizona in Game 4 of the NLCS, though, Maddux's final pitching line was anything but extraordinary. On the heels of the shortest postseason outing of Maddux's postseason career -- three-plus innings, six runs (four earned) and a crucial game-turning error -- it would be easy to second-guess the decision to pitch the four-time Cy Young winner on short rest.
Maddux scoffs at the notion. He wanted the ball in a game Atlanta desperately needed. He says he would rather pitch on three days' rest.
In truth, it was just one of those days ...
"There was no difference whatsoever," Maddux said. "It's actually better for me. I feel like my location is better. I feel like my command is better. Sometimes things don't work out. Tonight was one of those nights."
Historically, Maddux has been clutch on short rest. He was 17-6 in his career entering Game 4. And through the first two innings Saturday, Maddux was in control again. As were the Braves, who had built a 2-0 lead.
Then came the third inning.
Looking back, Maddux said he felt like he didn't make many mistakes on the mound. But there were plenty of miscues behind him and Maddux added to the Braves' fielding woes in the inning. A pair of errors committed by the right side of the infield and a fielder's choice that Maddux failed to record an out on helped set up a crucial bases-loaded situation for the Diamondbacks.
That's when the Maddux let the game slip away -- literally. With one out, Maddux nearly snagged a screaming liner up the middle off the bat of Steve Finley. Instead, the ball deflected off his glove to his feet. His sidewinding throw to the plate to try to cut down the go-ahead runner sailed wide.
Maddux called the ball a spitball, wet from the dew on the field. It was a play that was the key moment in Maddux's rare early trip to the showers. It also likely sunk the Braves' pennant hopes.
"It was a play I should have made," Maddux said. "Even if I didn't have a play, you have to try to make it. It's embarrassing. It was just a bad inning."
An inning that Braves manager Bobby Cox says sidetracked what could have been another possible Maddux gem.
"The blow was he was going to throw seven shutout innings with the stuff he went out there with," Cox said. "He generally starts out at 84 miles an hour. He was 87 to 89 tonight. He pitched great tonight.
"He's not going to pitch any better. The jam shots fell in. The serves to the opposite field fell in. We fell apart behind him. But I thought he threw better tonight than he did his last time out (in Game 1). Velocity-wise. Everything-wise. I thought he was excellent."
In a 3-1 hole, the Braves can give Maddux another chance by sending the series to a Game 7. He'd pitch on three days' rest.
"I thought this was a game we had to have," Maddux said. "We needed to even things up and go from there. Now we're in a hole. But we've done it before [against St. Louis in 1996]. I think we can do it again."