Series: Game 1 of 3

Atlanta leads 1-0 (as of 4/29)

Game 1: Tuesday, April 29
Game 2: Wednesday, April 30
Game 3: Thursday, May 1

Braves 3

(16-10, 6-4 away)

Astros 1

(11-14, 5-5 home)

    8:05 PM ET, April 29, 2003

    Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

    123456789 R H E
    ATL 200001000 3 6 0
    HOU 100000000 1 6 0

    W: G. Maddux (3-3)

    L: R. Oswalt (2-3)

    S: J. Smoltz (10)

    Maddux outduels Oswalt to help Braves win again

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Greg Maddux and the Atlanta Braves are putting it all together at the same time.

    Gary Sheffield

    Maddux pitched seven sharp innings to win his third straight decision and Gary Sheffield hit a two-run single as Atlanta beat the Houston Astros 3-1 Tuesday night.

    The Braves have won 12 of 14 following a 4-8 start, and Maddux also has recovered nicely.

    "I felt like I got away with a lot of mistakes the first couple of innings,'' he said. "But I pitched better the last couple of innings. The first couple of games, it seemed like they whacked it pretty good. Since then I've been catching some breaks.''

    The right-hander lost his first three starts for the first time in his career, at which point he had an 11.05 ERA. But he held Houston to just one run and five hits, outpitching Roy Oswalt.

    "At this time, the biggest thing is I've gotten outs on mistakes,'' Maddux said. "But that's the way it goes. The first couple of games, I didn't pitch that bad, and the last couple of games I haven't pitched that good.''

    John Smoltz worked the ninth for his 10th save in as many tries and 26th in a row dating to last season. He struck out Brad Ausmus with two runners on to end it.

    "The only selfish goals I have are to pitch in as many games as we win,'' Smoltz said. "I don't want to blow two in a row. I guess I want to keep the streak alive as long as I can.''

    The Astros got a run in the first inning when Geoff Blum singled to left field and scored on Jeff Kent's double to the right-center gap.

    After that, Maddux (3-3) limited the Astros to three hits and didn't allow a runner past second base. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter, improving to 22-9 lifetime against Houston.

    Oswalt (2-3) got off to his second consecutive rough start, allowing two runs and four hits in the first inning. He gave up three runs in the first three innings last Wednesday in a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets.

    This time, Rafael Furcal singled and Marcus Giles doubled to start the game before Sheffield drove in both runners with a single just inside the third-base line.

    "When things are going bad, everything seems to fall in,'' Oswalt said. "The first inning, they hit a ball on the line, then they got two runs fast and after that I settled down.

    "My mechanics felt good. I threw the ball good. It was just in the first inning that two balls got through and they got two runs and that was enough.''

    After a single by Robert Fick with two outs, Oswalt settled into a rhythm and retired the next 14 batters until he walked Sheffield with one out in the sixth.

    After the walk, Chipper Jones got a line drive single off first baseman Jeff Bagwell's glove and Andruw Jones followed with an RBI single off the left-field scoreboard.

    Oswalt went seven innings, allowing six hits. He struck out seven and walked two.

    "Roy pitched a good game, but Maddux pitched better,'' Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "He minimized the damage in the first inning, then he battled back and kept us in the game.

    "But Maddux was too tough.''

    Game notes

    Fick came off the disabled list after recovering from a sprained right shoulder and started at first base. ... Houston returned home from a 13-game road trip. ... Thirteen of Houston's 17 errors came in the first 13 games. ... Bagwell went 0-for-4, snapping his seven-game hitting streak. ... Astros OF Lance Berkman was ejected after a called third strike leading off the seventh inning when he argued with plate umpire Terry Craft.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press