PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Here's a scary thought for the rest of the
National League: Kevin Millwood thinks he's a better pitcher than
he was three years ago.
Millwood pitched eight strong innings, Gary Sheffield homered
and the Atlanta Braves completed a three-game sweep with a 2-1
victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday. Millwood (9-5) didn't allow a hit until Marlon Anderson led off
the sixth with a line drive single to right. He gave up four hits,
one run and struck out six to win his seventh straight decision --
his longest streak since he won nine straight from Aug. 13, 1999,
to May 1, 2000. It was his longest outing of the season. "I'm a better pitcher now,'' said Millwood, who had struggled
since going 18-7 with a 2.68 ERA in 1999. "I have more weapons to
get guys out with. I throw different pitches with different counts.
I don't think confidence is a factor.'' Tim Spooneybarger came on with a man on second and one out in
the ninth and finished for his first career save. Randy Wolf (5-7) allowed two runs, four hits and tied a
season-high with 10 strikeouts in eight innings. The NL East-leading Braves, 17-0-4 in their last 21 series, have
won six straight games and 23 of 29. The last-place Phillies have
lost four in a row. "We are not ready to compete with them at crucial parts of the
game,'' Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. "We can't get a bunt
down. We can't move runners. It's the inability to execute and
concentrate.'' Jimmy Rollins reached second on a two-base error by first
baseman Wes Helms to start the ninth off Kerry Ligtenberg. But
Bobby Abreu struck out, before Spooneybarger came in to retire Pat
Burrell on a bouncer to the mound and Scott Rolen on a grounder to
short. "He has to pull the ball or bunt it,'' Bowa said of Abreu. "I
know he's the No. 3 hitter, but if he didn't feel he could pull the
ball, then he should bunt it. It's a lack of concentration.
Everyone wants to be a hero and hit home runs. It's not just
Bobby.'' Sheffield gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead in the first when he hit a 1-2
pitch into the left-field seats for his 18th homer. Sheffield has
reached safely in 47 straight games, one short of Dale Murphy's
team record set in 1987. His homer was the only hit for either team in the first five
innings. An RBI single by Javy Lopez in the seventh made it 2-0.
Sheffield started the inning with an infield single and moved to
third on a double by Chipper Jones. After Andruw Jones popped out
to shortstop, Vinny Castilla was intentionally walked and Lopez
followed with a run-scoring single to left. Wolf escaped further
trouble by striking out Helms and Millwood to end the inning. With two outs in the seventh, the Phillies got a break when
second baseman Mark DeRosa and Sheffield allowed Pat Burrell's
shallow fly to right to fall in for a double. Scott Rolen followed
with an RBI triple that cut it to 2-1. But Millwood retired Travis
Lee on a grounder to second to end the inning. "We've had some blunders in the field the last few games,
hustle plays that we should've made, but the fact is the guys in
the bullpen are doing the job,'' Chipper Jones said. In his last six starts, Millwood is 5-0 with a 2.33 ERA. The
Braves have won his last 10 starts. He retired Ricky Ledee on a
bouncer to the mound with the tying run on second to end the
eighth. "He's been the Millwood of three years ago his last seven
starts or so,'' Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "His control is so
much better now and he's loaded with confidence.'' Wolf has allowed three runs or fewer in six of his last seven
starts, but is just 2-2 in those games. "It was pretty close to the best I felt all year,'' Wolf said.
"It's always frustrating if you lose, whether you give up a lot of
runs or not a lot of runs.''
Lopez left the game with a strained right shoulder in the
eighth. He got his second cortisone shot of the season on that
shoulder after the game, but doesn't think the injury is serious.
... Both teams wore vintage uniforms the entire series -- Atlanta's
from 1974, when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, the Phillies
from 1980, the year of their only World Series championship. ...
Dickie Noles, a pitcher on the 1980 team, and Dallas Green, the
manager on that team, threw out the first pitch. ... . John Smoltz,
who has 36 saves, wasn't available after saving the first two games
in the series. ... The Phillies are 25-26 at home after starting