<
>

Braves' Maddux drops first Opening-Day start

3/31/2003

ATLANTA (AP) -- Baseball's road warriors started with a win,
appropriately, on the road.

The Montreal Expos sent Greg Maddux to his first Opening-Day
loss, defeating the Atlanta Braves 10-2 on Monday behind Jeff Liefer's
four RBI and Orlando Cabrera's two-run homer.

Tony Armas Jr., in his first Opening-Day start, allowed one run
and five hits in six innings to get the win for the vagabond Expos.

"It's a good way to start,'' Montreal manager Frank Robinson
said. "We didn't have a particularly good road record last
year, and it's something we talked about this spring. We have to
improve this year on that.''

Montreal was 34-47 last season and 83-79 overall in its first
season under the operation of the commissioner's office. The Expos
finished second in the NL East, 19 games behind the Braves.

This year, Montreal will play 22 of its "home'' games in Puerto
Rico in an effort to increase revenue. The Expos will play just 59
times at Olympic Stadium in what could be their final season in
Montreal.

The Expos don't have a home game in Montreal until April 22.
They play their first nine games on the road, then 10 in San Juan.

Robinson counts the three trips to Puerto Rico as time at home.

"We get to bat last there,'' he said.

Maddux, 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA in seven previous Opening-Day
starts, gave up four runs in the first inning. The four-time NL Cy
Young Award winner went seven innings, giving up five runs -- four
earned -- and nine hits.

"I got the ball up in the first inning and I'm not good enough
to pitch up. I need to pitch down to be effective and I didn't
throw too many low strikes,'' he said. "When you have an inning
like that, you just try to last and hope the boys rally. I'm very
disappointed with the start.''

Atlanta, seeking its 12th straight division title, will depend
heavily on Maddux following the departure of Tom Glavine, who
signed with the New York Mets, and injuries that put Mike Hampton
and Paul Byrd on the disabled list.

A crowd of 40,248, about 10,000 short of capacity, was at Turner
Field on a sunny, chilly afternoon. The gametime temperature was
50, with a 10-15 mph wind.

Country singer Jo Dee Messina sang the national anthem, and many
fans wore red-white-and-blue clothing in a show of support of
American troops in the Middle East. Four fighter jets staged a
flyover before the game.

Armas was 0-4 against Atlanta last year and had lost six
straight decisions to the Braves since Sept. 22, 2000, dropping his
record against them to 4-6.

"It was an honor to start the opening game,'' he said. "My
fastball was the only thing working for me. My breaking pitch was
not good It was a little chilly, different from the scenario in
Florida. My grip on my breaking pitch was not good, but I won't
blame that on the cold.''

Montreal, which won its third straight opener, was without its
top hitter, Vladimir Guerrero. He was suspended for the first two
games for his involvement in a March 10 spring-training brawl, but
the Expos didn't need him and outhit the Braves 14-11.

Endy Chavez opened with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly
by Jose Vidro. Rookie Ron Calloway, starting in place of Guerrero
in right field, doubled for his first major league hit. Brad
Wilkerson hit an RBI single and Cabrera's homer made it 4-0.

Atlanta, which had won its previous four season openers at home,
scored in the sixth on a triple by Rafael Furcal and sacrifice fly
by newcomer Robert Fick.

The Braves' defense made three errors, two by Chipper Jones in
left, and it cost Atlanta a run in the seventh. Jones bobbled a
single by Henry Mateo and third baseman Vinny Castilla threw wildly
to first on Chavez's sacrifice bunt.

Liefer pinch hit in the eighth and had a two-run single off
Roberto Hernandez, then added a two-run double in the ninth against
Jung Bong.

Atlanta's Marcus Giles had an RBI single in the eighth off Luis
Ayala.

Game notes
RF Gary Sheffield gave the Braves a scare in the opening
inning when he crashed into the fence trying to grab Chavez' triple
. Sheffield landed hard on his right shoulder, but stayed in the
game. ... The Expos struck a deal with radio station The Team 990
to broadcast their games in English this season. The team already
had a French-language radio contract in a 148-game package split
between stations CKAC and CJMS. Montreal doesn't have a local
television broadcaster.