ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves rotation has gotten a big boost from a most unexpected source.
|Shane Reynolds tips his cap as he heads to the dugout after leaving the game. (AP)|
Reynolds, who was cut by Houston at the end of spring training, didn't give up a hit until the fifth and finally came out after giving up an RBI double to Tyler Houston in the eighth.
Reynolds (1-0) walked off the field to a rousing ovation from the Turner Field crowd, tipping his hat as he reached the dugout.
"What a great pickup for the organization," manager Bobby Cox said. "He's picked us up - literally. He's sneaky quick. He has a great curveball. He has a splitter that he can use on both sides of the plate. And he has tremendous control."
Philadelphia didn't manage a hit against Reynolds until Ricky Ledee blooped a single to right with two outs in the fifth. The ball landed just out of reach of diving second baseman Marcus Giles.
Otherwise, Reynolds breezed through the Philadelphia lineup until the eighth. After an error by first baseman Matt Franco, Houston doubled to the wall in center to drive home an unearned run.
Reynolds hasn't allowed an earned run in 12 1/3 innings since signing with the Braves on April 10.
"He had real good off-speed stuff," Philadelphia's Jim Thome said. "He knows how to pitch."
Atlanta blew open the game quickly, scoring four runs in the first and three more in the second against Brandon Duckworth.
Duckworth (0-1), making his first start of the season after coming off the disabled list, lasted only 1 1/3 innings.
Atlanta's normally stellar rotation has struggled since losing Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood. Coming into Sunday, the starters were 4-8 with a 5.20 ERA.
Enter Reynolds, who signed with the Braves after working out at a Houston high school. The 35-year-old right-hander missed the last 3½ months of 2002 after undergoing back surgery.
He fully recovered from the operation, but was surprisingly cut by the Astros in the final days of spring training. He spent the first nine years of his career with Houston.
When Paul Byrd needed elbow surgery, the Braves signed Reynolds in a desperate bid to upgrade their rotation. In just two starts, he already has made a big contribution.
"You never know why things happen the way they do," Reynolds said. "Why was I released by Houston? Why didn't I sign with another team? How did I end up with the Braves?"
Reynolds never threw much harder than the mid-80s, but he wasn't concerned about velocity.
"I was just trying to hit the spot, hit the spot," he said. "Who cares if you can't throw 90 mph."
Duckworth got in trouble right away. The first four hitters reached base, with Andruw Jones singling in two runs.
Before the first was done, Johnny Estrada -- called up from the minors the night before -- drove in a run with a groundout and Vinny Castilla made it 4-0 with a rare triple.
The Braves had as many hits in the first as they did in the previous game against Vicente Padilla, who pitched a four-hit shutout Saturday.
Atlanta knocked out Duckworth in the second. The pitcher doomed himself by bobbling Rafael Furcal's slow roller in front of the mound as the speedy shortstop tried to bunt his way on. Giles followed with a double and Gary Sheffield was walked intentionally to load the bases.
After getting two quick strikes on Jones, Duckworth walked the cleanup hitter to force in another run. Joe Roa came out of the bullpen, but immediately gave up a two-run double to Franco that made it 7-0.
"I just couldn't make a quality pitch," said Duckworth, who was on the DL because of tendinitis is his elbow. "I felt fine. I just couldn't locate. I didn't get the job done. It was frustrating after waiting so long."
Castilla added an RBI single in the eighth.
- Braves left fielder Chipper Jones didn't play. He sprained his left shoulder attempting a diving catch Saturday, requiring a cortisone shot. Jones hopes to return after Monday's off day.
- Sheffield reached base twice but his 16-game hitting streak ended.
- Duckworth's ERA after one start: 40.50.
- The Braves drew a crowd of 22,978 on Easter Sunday. They haven't had a crowd of even 30,000 since 40,244 turned out on opening day.
- Reynolds improved to 9-1 in his career against Philadelphia.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved