Posted: Wednesday October 13, 1999 12:23 AM
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- In the latest meeting between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, the significance may have changed but the result did not.
The Braves began their eighth consecutive National League Championship Series with a 4-2 victory over the Mets, defeating a team they left for dead two weeks ago.
Greg Maddux tossed seven solid innings, Eddie Perez homered and light-hitting shortstop Walt Weiss went 3-for-4 with a run scored and RBI for the Braves.
John Rocker recorded the final four outs for the save, his second of the postseason, to seal Atlanta's fourth straight win.
Perez and Gerald Williams each had two hits and an RBI for the Braves, who will host Game Two on Wednesday afternoon.
The Braves, who are seeking their fifth World Series trip this decade, won five of six September meetings with the Mets and nine of 12 overall this season.
"There's no way to explain it," Atlanta right fielder Brian Jordan said. "It's a different season when you get to the playoffs."
Left in Atlanta's wake, New York needed a three-game sweep over Pittsburgh in the season's final weekend and a win over Cincinnati in a one-game playoff to qualify for the postseason.
"The way they came back -- everyone counted them out -- it was real important for us to get that first one," Weiss said.
The Mets showed signs they can compete in this series, making a run-saving catch in the outfield and turning a sparkling double play. But they committed a pair of errors and failed to squeeze home a run in the third inning.
New York also continued to struggle offensively against its NL East foes, managing only six hits. The Mets were held to three runs or less in five of the six September meetings.
A four-time Cy Young Award winner, Maddux (1-0) improved his career postseason mark to 10-9. He suffered Atlanta's only loss to the Houston Astros in the Division Series and the team's only loss to New York last month.
"After Maddux's last outing with the Mets, he came in with an attitude," Jordan said. "He wanted to get the job done."
Maddux, the only NL pitcher this decade to win the Gold Glove Award, also made two outstanding defensive plays, snagging Cedeno's leadoff bouncer in the fifth and snaring Rey Ordonez's line drive to end the seventh.
"He's been doing it his whole career," Weiss said. "He fields his position. He pitches his game."
Masato Yoshii (0-1) suffered the loss after allowing two runs and five hits over 4 2/3 innings. Upon exiting, he threw a tantrum between the dugout and locker room, likely disappointed after his failed bunt attempt.
"I though Yoshii pitched his butt off," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.
In the fifth, Yoshii was hurt by the bottom of the order. Weiss led off with a double. Maddux sacrificed and Williams singled to left-center for a 2-1 lead.
Perez, Maddux's personal catcher who has become the starter with the injury to All-Star Javy Lopez, added insurance in the sixth. After Andruw Jones hit into a pretty double play, Perez lofted a 2-1 curveball into the left-field seats on a night when the ball was not carrying well.
Weiss, who got the start over offensive-minded shortstop Jose Hernandez, added more insurance in the eighth with a one-out RBI single to left off reliever Turk Wendell.
"Walt is really a slick-fielding shortstop," Cox said. "Maddux tends to get a lot of ground balls for one thing and I think (batting coach) Don Baylor has been doing a good job with Walt."
Weiss and Perez combined to go 5-for-7 with a pair of runs scored and two RBI at the bottom of Atlanta's lineup.
"Tonight, Walt Weiss, Eddie Perez and Greg Maddux -- they were the heroes," Jordan said.
An admitted Mets hater, Rocker got two quick outs in the ninth before third baseman Chipper Jones booted Shawon Dunston's grounder. Dunston took second on a wild pitch and scored on Todd Pratt's pinch RBI single before Jones redeemed himself with a nice play on Ordonez's smash down the line.
Rocker feuled the fire between the teams with statements last month that he hated the Mets. Players from both sides have been asked whether their is anomosity between the two.
"I don't think it's that big a deal," Weiss said. "When the game starts you get down to baseball, you get down to competing. We have all the respect in the world for that team. That's a great team."
All-Star catcher Mike Piazza went 0-for-3 with an RBI for the Mets. He missed Games Three and Four against the Arizona Diamondbacks due to a thumb injury.
"I think his timing might have been off a little bit," Valentine said.
The Mets just about played catch-up from the start. Williams started the first with a single, stole second and scored when Boone followed with a line drive single up the middle.
Roger Cedeno, who robbed Bret Boone of an extra-base hit and RBI in the fifth, led off the third with a double and went to third on Williams' errant throw to the infield. But Ordonez tapped weakly to Perez and Yoshii bunted through a 2-0 pitch.
"We were looking for the squeeze but not in that situation," Perez said. "I think Yoshii missed it. It was right down the middle. I don't know how he missed it."
The Mets scored once in the fourth but could have had more. With runners at first and third and one out, Piazza hit a broken-bat, RBI grounder and Ventura Walked, but Darryl Hamilton hit a comebacker to end the inning.
"Maddux really had a good night," Cox said. "If Chipper fields the double-play ball -- Piazza'a broken bat -- cleanly, he doesn't give up any runs."
New York managed a one-out single in the seventh and a leadoff walk against Mike Remlinger in the eighth, but stranded both. Rocker struck out John Olerud to end the eighth.
Second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, who doubled twice, and Gold Glove shortstop Ordonez turned an outstanding double play in the sixth. Alfonzo scooped a deflection of Andruw Jones' line drive near the bag and flipped to Ordonez, who barehanded the ball and fired to first.