Arms race is no contest

Maddux's effort latest of greatest

The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEW YORK - Good pitching beats good hitting. Great pitching reduces it to ridicule.

To bat against the Atlanta Braves is to run on an ice rink with tied-together shoelaces. Sooner or later, you fall on your face.

Two games into the World Series, and the New York Yankees have gone from chagrin to embarrassment and are rapidly approaching humiliation. They have lost two games at home, 12-1 Sunday and then 4-0 Monday night, and are still searching for their first meaningful hit of the competition.

John Smoltz overwhelmed them in Game One. Greg Maddux baffled them in Game Two. And now they travel to Atlanta to be taunted by Tom Glavine, the third member of Bobby Cox' Cy Young triumvirate.

''They're trying,'' Yankee manager Joe Torre said of his hitters. ''They're getting frustrated. You don't see pitching like this every day. Unfortunately, we have seen it every day.''

The American League champs have been made to feel like chumps against Atlanta. Monday's main suspense involved seeing if Maddux could throw a shutout without striking anyone out.

Not until the seventh inning did Maddux fan a New York hitter, but the Yankees were altogether impotent against him. He recorded 19 of his 24 outs on ground balls, most of them meek. Only once did the Yankees put two hits together, and Maddux snuffed that sixth-inning rally by inducing Wade Boggs to hit into a double play. He threw 82 pitches in eight innings, 62 of them strikes. Reliever Mark Wohlers came on to strike out the side in the ninth.

He's something

''He's something,'' Torre said of Maddux. ''He really is. He goes in and out, changes speed. He was a master tonight.''

With two more wins, the Braves can complete a second straight world championship. With any more pitching performances approaching those of Smoltz and Glavine, they will carve out a piece of posterity.

Already regarded as one of the most remarkable pitching rotations in modern baseball, the Braves' recent outings indicate immortality. Over their last 22 postseason games, dating back to the 1995 playoff rout of the Reds, Atlanta's pitching staff has compiled a preposterous earned-run average of 1.71.

Best since '66

Since they trailed St. Louis, three games to one, in the National League Championship Series, the Braves have outscored their competition 48-2 in five postseason games. No team has attained such sustained pitching dominance in October since the Baltimore Orioles held the Los Angeles Dodgers to two runs during a 1966 series sweep.

This Braves staff rates comparisons to the 1954 Indians, to the 1963 Dodgers, and to just about anyone else you can name. When they have run their course, there may be no one left worthy of being in the same breath.

''I think they're right up there right now,'' said Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. ''The greatest compliment that could be paid to our staff was Don Drysdale said our pitchers reminded him of the great Dodger staffs.''

The Yankees have been reminded of no one. They've never seen anything like this before.

Tim Sullivan is an Enquirer columnist.

Published Oct. 22, 1996.