Braves lose, escape 'Dome 2 games down Leius' home run lifts Twins, 3-2

October 21, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Atlanta Braves had heard all of the horror stories about the Metrodome. They had heard about the fiberglass roof and the funny hops and the full-volume fans. They knew what to expect and it still didn't do any good.

The Minnesota Twins just poked a couple of balls over the little plastic glass fence in left field to score a 3-2 victory and go up two games in the best-of-seven World Series.

Platoon third baseman Scott Leius, who had hit just five home runs all year, led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a line drive into the bleachers to send the Braves back to Atlanta in a seemingly desperate situation.

His unlikely shot -- coupled with a two-run homer by designated hitter Chili Davis in the first inning -- carried Kevin Tapani to his first postseason victory and sent 20-game winner Tom Glavine to another frustrating postseason defeat.

Tapani pitched eight innings and gave up two runs on seven hits, but his performance seemed almost certain to be overshadowed by Glavine, who carried a one-hitter into the seventh and retired 15 straight batters in one stretch during the middle innings.

"Kevin pitched a great game," said Twins manager Tom Kelly. "He used all his pitches and he moved the ball in and out well. The same goes for Glavine. He pitched a great ballgame. Both of them made it a pretty tough night for the hitters."

For the second night in a row, one of the lightweights at the bottom of the lineup delivered the crushing blow for the Twins, who have reasserted their postseason dominance at the cozy Metrodome. Shortstop Greg Gagne's three-run shot provided the margin of victory in Game 1. Leius is even less of a power threat, but stranger things have happened here.

"Going down the stretch with our club, different guys did it," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "They have good hitters throughout their lineup. I saw Leius in Double A. He won a batting title in the minor leagues, so he's not just an out-man."

Perhaps it wouldn't have left the park in a more conventional stadium, but Cox was not looking for excuses. The Braves had men all over the bases and could have broken away on several occasions.

"There were a lot of factors tonight," Cox said. "We could have won the game on our own merits, so you can't blame the ballpark."

Cox has denied that the noisy stadium played a significant role in the outcome of Game 1, but it didn't take long for the crowd and the gray-white roof to come into play last night.

Dan Gladden led off the bottom of the first inning with a pop fly to shallow right field and ended up at second base when right fielder David Justice collided with second baseman Mark Lemke on the play. Both called for the ball, but neither could hear the other and neither could afford to take his eye off the ball long enough to look for a hand signal.

It would turn out to be a big play, even though Kirby Puckett watered down a potential big inning when he hit into a double play with runners at first and second and no one out. Davis followed with a 380-foot blast into the left-field bleachers to give the Twins a two-run lead.

That was the only hit that Glavine would surrender until the seventh inning. He walked Hrbek to lead off the second and then retired the next 15 batters in order to buy time for his teammates to chip away at the two-run deficit.

The Braves made the least of a second-inning rally that began with a single by Justice and a double by Sid Bream. Justice tagged up and scored on a fly ball to deep right by Brian Hunter, but Bream inexplicably tagged up and held at second on the throw to the plate.

Gregg Olson followed with a ground ball to the left of shortstop that would have scored a run from third, but the Braves settled for one.

There were enough strange plays in the early innings to keep the television replay monitors in a state of perpetual slow motion, but Kent Hrbek's power-lifting exhibition in the third inning was in a weight class of its own.

Braves center fielder Ron Gant apparently had put runners at first and third with a two-out single, but Tapani cut off an overthrow from left field and tried to catch Gant rounding first. He didn't succeed in picking Gant off the bag, so Hrbek picked Gant up off the bag and Drew Coble called him out.

Gant was struggling to regain his balance after he returned to the base, but a variety of video replays showed that he was lifted off the bag by Hrbek, who had his left (glove) hand conveniently located under Gant's right thigh.

Coble got an earful from Gant, who slammed his helmet to the ground and had to be restrained by the other umpires, but there were no ejections. Cox also argued the call, which cost the Braves a chance to capitalize on a first-and-third, two-out situation.

Instead, they would tie the game in the fifth inning, when Olson led off with a double up the alley in left and moved around on a ground-out by Lemke and a sacrifice fly by shortstop Rafael Belliard.

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