ATLANTA -- Credit Greg (single g, please) Olson with a save in the Atlanta Braves' spellbinding 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins in 12 innings here last night.
It won't show up in the box score of World Series Game 3, but Olson saved the night for the National Leaguers four innings before Mark Lemke got the game-winning hit. After the dust had settled and the tomahawks were put away for the night, Olson's play was overshadowed but not overlooked.
One pitch before Kirby Puckett struck out with runners on first and third, Atlanta reliever Alejandro Pena uncorked a nasty slider that broke into the dirt, two feet wide of home plate. Somehow Olson lunged to his right, snapping at the ball on the short hop and keeping the go-ahead run at third base.
"Nothing he does surprises me," said Braves' first-base coach Pat Corrales, a former catcher. "He has an amazing ability to catch and block pitches.
"That was a nasty, nasty pitch," said Corrales, "and he just flicked his glove out there. I don't know how he came up with the ball."
Puckett struck out on the next pitch and then Shane Mack did the same to conclude the first of two great opportunities the Twins had to win the game. "We felt we had to go with a slider in that spot," said Olson. "He [Pena] just held onto it a little too long."
And what was Olson's reaction when he first saw the pitch? "I thought, 'Uh-oh, here we go,' " said the catcher. "I just threw the glove out there and when I felt it, I knew I had it. I just gave it a little 'ole.' "
* ACE IN THE HOLE: Jack Morris said the Atlanta Braves may have an advantage facing him for the second time in five days in Game 4 of the World Series tonight. But the veteran righthander also admits he relishes being the pitcher the Twins rely on the most.
Privately, just about everyone in the Minnesota organization says Kevin Tapani is a better pitcher -- but that Morris, 36, is the guy who sets the tone for the whole staff.
Manager Tom Kelly had Morris set up to pitch three games if necessary in the American League Championship Series -- and has done the same thing for the World Series. If the Braves are going to finish their miracle year by winning the World Series, they'll have to beat Morris, who would pitch the seventh game, to do it.
"I think that probably had something to do with it," Morris said last night, when asked if he felt his experience, knowledge and leadership were responsible for the Twins setting their rotation around him. "I cherish that," he said. "I had the chance to do that for many years in Detroit and now in Minnesota. It's something I want."
As for the Braves, Morris says that centerfielder Ron Gant gave him the most trouble in the first game.
"He's done the best offensively," Morris said before last night's game. "He really battled me in his first at-bat in Game 1 [getting a single to right]. He's a great player.
"Over the long run, it's harder for a pitcher to throw back-to-back
games against a team," Morris said about facing the Braves a second time. "A hitter is able to learn what the pitcher will throw. But, I've learned over my career that pitching is constant change."
* PEACH FUZZ IN PEACH STATE: Last night's matchup of Scott Erickson and Steve Avery was the youngest in a World Series since 1981. Exactly 10 years ago tonight, Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Righetti represented a combined age of 43 years, 10 months and 17 days.
Erickson, 23, and Avery, 21, were a combined 45 years, 2 months and 28 days.