Braves' Cox to pitch Maddux on 3 days' rest today in Game 4

Piniella guarantees Seattle return to Safeco

Brenly to start Lopez

LCS notebook

October 20, 2001|By Roch Kubatko and Peter Schmuck | Roch Kubatko and Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox confirmed yesterday that he'll start Greg Maddux tonight in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. Maddux will work on three days' rest after losing a 2-0 duel with Arizona's Randy Johnson in Game 1.

Cox normally goes with a four-man postseason staff, the exception being 1992 when he used Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery. "We've never had a bullpen this strong, either," Cox said.

Atlanta's starters are rested after the Braves swept Houston in the division series and haven't been drawn into high pitch counts.

"I've done this in the past," said Maddux, who allowed four runs in seven innings while working on short rest against Colorado in the 1995 Division Series. "It's not like I throw hard anyway. I'm not going to lose anything off my fastball."

Kevin Millwood was bypassed despite being 4-1 with a 1.66 ERA lifetime vs. the Diamondbacks. Luis Gonzalez is 1-for-15 against him, Matt Williams 0-for-15, Reggie Sanders 1-for-11 and Jay Bell 2-for-13. "He could still get a start very easily," Cox said, adding that hasn't decided on Game 5.

Piniella: Don't count us out

Seattle was still buzzing yesterday about Mariners manager Lou Piniella's guarantee that his team would return to Safeco Field for the sixth game of the American League Championship Series.

"I want you all to print this," Piniella said to reporters outside the Mariners clubhouse after the team's Game 2 loss. "We're coming back here for Game 6."

Obviously, Piniella was just trying to fire up his troops after another not-so-clutch performance against Yankees pitching. The Mariners are a combined 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

"Whether he said what had to be said or not, he said it," said veteran Mark McLemore. "What needs to be done is for us to win a ballgame. If that's the message coming from the manager, I love that. It's not like he's down on us. He knows we can play better, and so do we."

Brenly backs Lopez

The weakest link in Arizona's four-man rotation for the NLCS continues to receive strong support from his manager.

Bob Brenly will start Albie Lopez tonight, a decision he made before last night's game. Acquired from Tampa Bay on July 25, Lopez went 4-7 with a 4.00 ERA in 13 starts. His combined mark was 9-19.

Lopez lost his first three decisions with the Diamondbacks until a 9-1 win over Maddux on Aug. 12. He threw seven shutout innings.

Injuries contributed to Lopez's difficulties in Tampa Bay. He left a May 9 start against the Orioles with a strained groin muscle, and 10 days later was hit on the right thumb. Lopez lost 10 straight decisions from April 29 to July 2, but Brenly was influenced more by his final start before the trade.

"We were up in Seattle playing the Mariners," Brenly said, "and Albie was pitching against the Braves here in Atlanta. So the game came on very early in the morning out there. We watched Albie pitch extremely well against the Braves. And I know he beat them another time."

Said Lopez: "Every time I go out there, I'm very confident in what I have to do. Even though it's a big game, I'm trying to stay relaxed and do my job."

A boon for Boone?

Mariners second baseman Bret Boone appears to be regaining his batting stroke. He had a very tough Division Series (2-for-21), but has hit safely in three of his past four games.

"I felt good at the plate," he said after Game 2. "Very good."

Next question

After sitting out Game 1 and missing Johnson, former Oriole B.J. Surhoff was subjected to the other half of Arizona's dynamic duo last night by starting against Curt Schilling.

Apparently forgetting that Surhoff didn't play in the series opener, a reporter asked him about the adjustments in facing Johnson and Schilling.

"Well, I had to go from being on the bench to being on the field, first of all," Surhoff said. "I couldn't hit Randy. He was a long way from where I was."

Need a ticket?

There were several thousand empty seats last night at the Braves' Turner Field for Game 3 against Arizona, even with near-perfect, 64-degree conditions.

Ticket sales appear even worse for the rest of the weekend - 12,000 are available for today's game, 14,000 for tomorrow.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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