Greg Maddux once again is showing why he's been the best pitcher in the National League this decade. He allowed only two hits in eight innings yesterday in his best outing of the season to help the Braves beat the New York Mets, 1-0, in Atlanta.

The Braves took the final two games of the series against New York, expanding their lead over the Mets to four games in the NL East.

Maddux (7-5) walked two and struck out six, throwing 93 pitches. He lowered his ERA to 3.87 and has given up two earned runs in his last 21 2/3 innings (0.83).

"His breaking ball was his big pitch. He threw hard. He has lots of confidence he can throw [the curve] for strikes," said Mets Manager Bobby Valentine of Maddux.

New York's Masato Yoshii (6-6) was nearly as effective as Maddux, giving up four hits, walking one and striking out four in seven innings. Atlanta scored in the third when Eddie Perez singled with one out, reached second on a sacrifice by Maddux and came home on a double by Ozzie Guillen.

Maddux, a four-time Cy Young award winner, started the season 4-0 but did not win a game during May.

"The difference today? Not a whole lot," said Maddux, who has given up a league-high 134 hits in 107 innings. "I don't think when I was going bad that I was that bad and when I'm pitching good, I don't think I'm that good."

PADRES 5, ROCKIES 3: Sterling Hitchcock pitched eight strong innings to help San Diego beat visiting Colorado. It was the Padres' ninth straight win, tying Texas for the longest streak in the majors this season.

Hitchcock (6-6) allowed six hits and one walk and struck out eight. He left after allowing Vinny Castilla's second homer of the game, leading off the ninth. Trevor Hoffman finished up and earned his 18th save.

Even with the streak, the Padres (34-38) are four wins below .500. "We're not taking anything for granted," Hoffman said. "We haven't accomplished anything."

REDS 5, ASTROS 2: A seven-game road trip might seem like a daunting task, but it hasn't been to the best road team in baseball.

Michael Tucker homered to help Cincinnati (41-31) win in Houston (42-32) to complete a perfect road trip and claim first place in the NL Central.

"We're clicking on all cylinders right now," said Cincinnati's Sean Casey, who went 13 for 27 (.481) in the seven games. "Our starting pitching has been good, we've been playing great defense and everybody's hitting."

With the four-game sweep of Houston, the Reds lead the majors with a 26-10 road record. They are 15-21 at home.

CUBS 13, PHILLIES 7: Sammy Sosa hit his 28th home run, tied for the major league lead, as Chicago outslugged visiting Philadelphia.

With one out in the third and the score tied at 2, Sosa hit the first pitch from rookie Randy Wolf over the left field bleachers onto Waveland Avenue. It was his second homer in as many games and 301st of his career.

Sosa shares the home run lead with Tampa Bay's Jose Canseco. Sosa hit a major league record 20 home runs last June en route to 66, and has 11 this month. He needs two more homers to reach 30 for the sixth time; the only Cub to have more 30-homer seasons was Ernie Banks, who had seven.

GIANTS 8, DODGERS 7: J.T. Snow hit a three-run homer and Ellis Burks a solo shot in a four-run third as San Francisco ended a five-game losing streak by beating visiting Los Angeles. Chan Ho Park gave up both homers and has yielded 19 in 87 2/3 innings.

Barry Bonds of the Giants tied Henry Aaron's major league record of 293 intentional walks when he received his fourth of the season in the fourth inning.

PIRATES 6, BREWERS 5: In Milwaukee, Ed Sprague hit a three-run homer and Pittsburgh held on for the victory. Jeromy Burnitz hit an eighth inning grand slam off Scott Sauerbeck that cut into Pittsburgh's 6-1 lead, but the Brewers couldn't score again.

The Brewers' major league-worst home record fell to 11-23.

MARLINS 4, EXPOS 3: In Montreal, Dave Berg hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning as Florida ended a disastrous road trip on a high note. The Marlins lost the first 10 games of the trip -- the longest losing streak in the majors this season -- before winning the final two in Montreal.

DIAMONDBACKS 3, CARDINALS 2: Pinch hitter Andy Fox won it in the 10th for host Arizona by singling in Travis Lee, who had tripled.

CAPTION: Cubs' Sammy Sosa follows through on 28th home run of the season, tying him with Jose Canseco for the major league lead, and 301st of his career.