Confident, yes, especially since those wins were on

By BERNIE WILSON AP Sports Writer Published:

Confident, yes, especially since those wins were on the road and they're back home for a weekend bash at Qualcomm Stadium, expected to be rocking with more than 60,000 fans for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Sunday.

Guarded, though, because these still are the same Braves who won 106 games in the regular season and still have Greg Maddux (18-9) and left-hander Denny Neagle (16-11) to go in their vaunted starting rotation.

"They're too good," Tony Gwynn said at the Padres' sun-splashed workout Friday afternoon. "You know that you have to fight for whatever it is you want. We want to go to the World Series. We want to win the World Series. That was our goal coming in.

"We won the first two games of this series, but you have to keep your wits about you. I'm sure they've been down 0-2 before. That's not going to faze them."

The Braves of the '90s have faced a 2-0 deficit just once, in the 1991 World Series which they lost to Minnesota in seven. They trailed St. Louis 3-1 in the 1996 NLCS and rallied to win.

Just two teams have rallied from a 2-0 deficit and won the NLCS, including Gwynn's Padres in 1984 against the Chicago Cubs to reach their only World Series.

But no team has won an NLCS after losing the first two games at home.

"We can't feel good about being 0-2, but we have the type of club and pitching that we could easily reel off four in a row," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said after Kevin Brown pitched yet another gem in the NLCS against Atlanta, winning 3-0 Thursday night with a three-hit complete game.

Brown also beat the Braves twice last year while with the Florida Marlins.

The Braves didn't work out Friday. They flew to San Diego and arrived too late before the field was converted for a Hawaii-San Diego State football game.

Maddux gets the start Saturday, a week after he beat the Chicago Cubs 6-2 to close out a first-round sweep. The Padres counter with left-hander Sterling Hitchcock, who was brilliant in striking out 11 Houston Astros in six innings Sunday and outdueling Randy Johnson as the Padres finished their division series in four games with a 6-1 win.

John Smoltz and Tom Glavine pitched well for Atlanta in the first two games, but San Diego's Andy Ashby and Brown pitched even better. San Diego's team ERA is 0.95 after two games, compared to Atlanta's 2.84.

Maddux lost his only start against the Padres this year, 5-1 at San Diego on Aug. 12. He won his next two starts, but then went 0-3 with two no-decisions in his next five starts before winning his final outing of the season.

A key matchup Saturday will be Gwynn versus Maddux. Gwynn has hit .455 lifetime against the four-time Cy Young Award winner.

"The challenge with him starts with the guys in front of him," Maddux said. "That's half the battle in pitching to Tony is getting the guys out in front of him. He handles the bat as well as anybody probably has."

The Padres know they're going to have to scrap for runs regardless of who's pitching for the Braves. That's what they had to do Thursday night, when even Brown got into the action with two singles and one run scored.

"We got the perfect start we wanted, but it's a long way from over," said Chris Gomez, who had the first of three straight singles off Glavine in the one-run sixth. "They have their No. 1 starter going every night. I don't know how they set their rotation. They must flip coins or something. Every guy they send out there can shut you out."

If the Padres needed any more perspective on their 2-0 lead, they can get it from first baseman Wally Joyner.

"To beat Atlanta two games is hard to do, and we have to do it another time," he said. "We all understand that until the last out's made, there's still a chance for the other team to go to the World Series. I was with the Angels in '86 when we were an out away and we never made it. I've never been there yet, and I'm going to give it my best to get there this year."

Padres manager Bruce Bochy said left fielder Greg Vaughn's strained left

quadriceps has improved dramatically, but he's still a longshot to play

on Saturday.

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