07/16/2002 6:51 pm ET
Strikeouts dominate day at Wrigley
Braves and Cubs combine for 28 K's
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Atlanta's Kevin Millwood had beaten the Chicago Cubs on July 5 so the team knew what to expect Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Trouble is, the Cubs didn't adjust.
Millwood struck out a season-high 11 and combined with Mike Remlinger and John Smoltz on a two-hitter to lead the Braves to a 2-0 victory over the Cubs.
In their first meeting this year in Atlanta, Millwood struck out eight over six innings in a 4-3 Braves victory. Bench coach Rene Lachemann was in charge that day, the first sans Don Baylor. The advance notice didn't help the Cubs against Millwood this time.
"We'd faced him in Atlanta and we knew what he was throwing," Chicago center fielder Corey Patterson said. "You've just got to try to be patient and wait for something out over the plate and get something you can handle."
Millwood got the best of Patterson, who struck out all three at-bats against the Braves right-hander. Chicago's Sammy Sosa also whiffed three times as Atlanta totaled a season-high 16 strikeouts.
Cubs catcher Joe Girardi was a strikeout victim in the third inning and stepped out of the batter's box to question at least one of home plate umpire Brian Gorman's calls during an at-bat.
"I thought the plate was quite generous today," Girardi said.
"I think he did miss some calls," Patterson said of Gorman, "but you really shouldn't let a pitcher or an umpire dictate your approach. You have to make the adjustment.
"It seemed like he was giving him the outside corner," Patterson said. "Maybe next time we can step up to the plate and take that outside pitch away and make them throw inside and hope they miss out over the plate. A lot of factors went into the game. Maybe the umpire made some bad calls but at the same time, Kevin made some good pitches."
Girardi said something in hopes of helping Cubs starter Jon Lieber.
"My thought is you want to get calls for your pitchers," Girardi said. "It makes it real difficult to hit when a guy's getting four inches off the plate."
And Gorman's response?
"He just said it was a strike. That's what they always say," Girardi said. "There's no recourse."
Cubs interim manager Bruce Kimm didn't argue any calls. The Braves pitching staff long has been rumored to have an edge on those close pitches on the corners.
"The umpires are outstanding," Kimm said. "I'd never question that. There's no favoritism (toward the Braves)."
As far as Kimm and Lieber are concerned, the Braves are just good. They don't have the best record in the National League for nothing.
"Even though we lost, it took a great pitching performance to beat us," Kimm said. "They were throwing the heck out of the ball. We were throwing good, too. We just got beat today."
The two teams combined for 28 strikeouts, two shy of the National League record of 30 set May 6, 1998, by Chicago's Kerry Wood and Houston's Shane Reynolds. Wood whiffed 20 to tie a Major League record.
Lieber (6-7) struck out six over six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and one walk. It's tough to lose games that close.
"That's baseball," Lieber said. "That probably won't be the last game you lose like that. We battled out there and just came up on the short end of the stick. There were some situations where I could've made some better pitches and I didn't do the job.
"To play Atlanta this close, yeah, we'd like to win both ballgames but they were close ballgames and I like where we're at."
The Cubs now are 5-2 since Kimm took over July 6 for Baylor. Lieber didn't try to over-analyze the team chemistry after the change.
"A lot of people don't understand what goes on out there except us as players and coaches," Lieber said. "There's a lot of eyeballs on you and it's easier to second guess after the ball goes over the plate. It's definitely a tough situation for anybody."
Carrie Muskat covers the Cubs for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.