Braves winas Maddux finds form

The Atlanta Braves, building on Greg Maddux's four-hit masterpiece, completed a potentially devastating three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 4-0 victory late on Thursday.

The Atlanta Braves, building on Greg Maddux's four-hit masterpiece, completed a potentially devastating three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 4-0 victory late on Thursday.

After their pitcher Randy Johnson was beaten by Tom Glavine on Tuesday, the Diamondbacks saw their mid-season acquisition Curt Schilling outpitched by Maddux.

The four-time Cy Young Award winner shook off his recent struggles and returned to his dominant form. Maddux, who has had 16 wins this season and eight losses, gave up only four singles and did not walk a single batter. He also helped himself at the plate with a two-run double in the fourth inning. It was the only extra-base hit of the game.

The defeat left the Diamondbacks five and a half games behind the New York Mets in the wild-card chase and eight games behind San Francisco Giants in the National League West Division.

In San Francisco, Barry Bonds, Ellis Burks and Bobby Estalella all hit home runs as the Giants scored eight runs in the sixth inning on the way to their ninth consecutive victory, a 13-0 triumph over the San Diego Padres.

The Giants continued to pull away in the National League West, leading the fading Arizona Diamondbacks by eight and a half games. They have won eight straight games at Pacific Bell Park for the first time since July, and have 50 wins against 20 defeats in their new stadium.

Bonds put San Francisco on the board in the third inning with a two-run homer off Matt Clement, his 44th of the season moving him within two of the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa for the major league lead.

In Houston, Scott Elarton threw eight solid innings, lifting the Astros to a 7-3 victory over the Florida Marlins.

In St Louis, Darryl Kile struck out 10 batters over seven strong innings while Jim Edmonds and Will Clark supplied the offence with homers as the St Louis Cardinals won for the seventh time in eight games, 6-1 over the Montreal Expos.

Kile (17 wins and nine losses this season) allowed just one run while allowing five hits and yielding only one walk. He won his third straight decision by throwing 87 of 119 pitches for strikes.

In the American League, after being shut down by the starting pitcher Dan Reichert for eight innings, the New York Yankees took advantage of a key error, and the Kansas City Royals' bullpen, to pull out a7-3 victory.

With the Royals leading 1-0, the closing pitcher Ricky Bottalico (7-5) relieved Reichert to start the ninth and walked Jose Canseco before Scott Brosius hit a single to right field. Kris Wilson then replaced Bottalico and fielded a bunt from the pinch-hitter Luis Polonia in front of the mound. Wilson threw high to third base and the ball sailed into left field, allowing Knoblauch to score and tie the game, 1-1.

Jose Vizcaino singled to right field to bat in Brosius and Derek Jeter followed with an RBI double to make it 3-1. Pinch-hitter Ryan Thompson singled to left field, scoring Vizcaino and Jeter and chasing Wilson. The left-hander Scott Mullen came in and retired Tino Martinez, but left David Justice sent a one-two pitch over the right-field fence for his 36th home run and a 7-1 lead.

In Boston, Jose Offerman and Dante Bichette combined for three home runs and the Boston Red Sox answered an early display of power by the Minnesota Twins in an 11-6 victory.

Ramon Martinez won his first game since 20 July, settling down after allowing a grand slam home run to David Ortiz and a solo to Corey Koskie in the first inning. Martinez (9-6) allowed six hits in the first inning, but just two more before leaving with two outs in the sixth.

Bichette's homer sparked a five-run rally in the fourth for Boston, who moved within two and a half games of Cleveland in the American League wild card race and six games off the first-placed Yankees in the American League East.

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