Greg Maddux looked in the dugout and saw the signal from Manager Bobby Cox. Four fingers meant the streak was over.
Maddux intentionally threw four balls to Steve Finley in the third inning Sunday, ending the Atlanta Brave pitcher’s NL-record streak of 72 1/3 innings without a walk.
It was a strategic move that didn’t work out. Not only did the streak end, Maddux and the Braves were beaten, 9-1, by the Arizona Diamondbacks at Atlanta.
“If you pitch better, you don’t have to walk anybody,” said Maddux, who gave up 12 hits and six runs in six innings. “If I was the manager, I would have walked him too.”
Maddux’s streak fell short of the major league record of 84 1/3 set by Bill Fischer of the Kansas City Athletics in 1962.
Arizona outscored the Braves, 19-2, to sweep a three-game series at Turner Field and reclaim first place in the NL West.
In his previous start, Maddux (15-7) eclipsed the NL record of 68 innings without a walk, set by Christy Mathewson in 1913 and equaled by Randy Jones in 1976.
Fischer, now Tampa Bay’s pitching coach, still holds the record. The Maddux walk was shown on the scoreboard at Tropicana Field after the top of the third inning as the Devil Rays played Minnesota.
“If he would have broke it, I wouldn’t have felt bad about it. Records are made to be broken, and it would have been broken by a great pitcher,” Fischer said.
“It laid dormant for 30 years, and now it popped up. Now it will pop away and nobody will mention it again for maybe 30 years,”
Albie Lopez (1-3) gave up two hits in seven innings to hand the Braves their fifth consecutive loss--the team’s longest skid in more than two years.
Maddux went 289 hitters between walks, last issuing one to Florida’s Charles Johnson on June 20. During that span, the four-time Cy Young winner threw 639 strikes in 894 pitches and went to three balls in the count only 22 times.
Maddux issued another intentional walk in the third, marking only the sixth time in 25 starts he has walked two.
“Walks are a big part of pitching,” Maddux said. “You’ve got good walks and you’ve got bad walks. That’s why the streak doesn’t matter.”
Arizona batted around in the third, scoring three times for a 4-0 lead. With first base open and a right-hander on the mound against a left-handed hitter, Cox decided it was time for the streak to end.
“You know it’s there,” Cox said. “But that’s never prevented either one of us from doing the right thing and trying to win the game.”
San Francisco 7, Chicago 6--Rich Aurilia hit a three-run homer right after a costly Cub error at Chicago. One day after hitting his 50th homer, Barry Bonds went one for four with a double for the Giants, who won for the 15th time in 17 games.
Colorado 7, Cincinnati 6--Juan Pierre’s two-out, two-run single tied it in the ninth and Juan Uribe singled home the go-ahead run off Danny Graves at Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh 7, San Diego 6--Aramis Ramirez hit his 25th home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth at Pittsburgh and ended the Padres’ three-game winning streak.
Houston 10, Florida 5--The Astros made pitcher-friendly Pro Player Stadium look like cozy Enron Field, as Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Daryle Ward and Vinny Castilla homered at Miami.
Montreal 5, Milwaukee 0--Javier Vazquez tied his career high with 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings at Montreal.