07/16/2002 7:40 pm ET
Millwood improves his mechanics
Braves pitching coach credited with recent success
By David Brown / Special to MLB.com
CHICAGO -- A film session under the instruction of pitching coach Leo Mazzone continues to reap dividends for Kevin Millwood.
The right-hander allowed two hits and struck out a season-high 11 over seven innings as the Braves snapped a three-game losing streak Tuesday with a 2-0 victory over the Cubs.
"I felt able to locate pretty much everything," said Millwood, who won his sixth straight decision. "It was probably the best curveball I had all year, too. There aren't many days when you can have everything working."
Millwood improved to 8-5 and lowered his ERA to 3.68. He, Mike Remlinger and John Smoltz -- who pitched the ninth for his 33rd save -- combined for 16 strikeouts, a season high.
"Boy, that's a lot of strikeouts," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Millwood, who missed two months of the 2001 season with a sore labrum, was 2-5 with a 4.92 ERA after his May 18 start. The Braves ruled out an injury, but weren't sure what was wrong. So, Mazzone decided to break out 1997 film of Millwood for a comparison.
Mazzone saw that "new" Millwood was waving his glove hand around, among other things, to deceive batters during his windup. In the past, Millwood simply got the ball and threw it.
"He was adding so much motion to his delivery. It's something pitchers do sometimes when they're trying to get through an injury," said Mazzone, who has been the Braves pitching coach since 1990. "A wise man once told me that if a pitcher's doing that, you should get him to stop. So, we cut it back down."
Millwood has not lost in 11 starts since, and has a 2.65 ERA in that span. He is pitching like he did during his first three seasons, when he went 40-18. He was a combined 17-20 in 2000 and 2001, with ERAs well above his 3.86 lifetime mark.
His strikeouts are also improved. Millwood has 35 in his last 24 2/3 innings. His effort Tuesday was two shy of his career best.
"I have been getting more strikeouts lately," Millwood said. "I don't know if it's because I'm pitching different, but I feel I have been pitching better."
Millwood credited his renaissance to working on the side with Mazzone, reputed to be one the Major League's best pitching coaches.
"Stuff on the side with Leo, with the video, got me to make a little adjustment," Millwood said. "My mechanics have gotten where they need to be. Coming off an injury, things are not always where they're supposed to be. Once I got that back, I started to get more comfortable."
On an 81-degree day, Millwood was strong from the start against the Cubs. He retired 12 of his first 13 batters, and allowed just three baserunners all day. Only one, Delino DeShields, reached second base.
"You know, facing (Cubs starter) Jon Lieber, he's not going to give up too many runs," Millwood said. "You know you have to hold the other team down."
Millwood, whose last complete game was Sept. 19, 1999 against Montreal, said he started to get tired in his final inning.
"Once that happens to a starter, you'd be crazy not to go to the bullpen with the guys we have down there," said Millwood, who has not gone longer than 7 2/3 innings this season.
Millwood's 105-pitch performance helped end the Braves' longest losing streak in two months. Atlanta has not lost four straight since April 13-16.
"It was nice for me to get the win, but it was also nice to get the split in the series," Millwood said.
David Brown is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.