ATLANTA -- Steve Avery plans to spend two nights in Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome this weekend, one as a spectator. But that doesn't mean he's planning on a seventh game of the World Series.
On the eve of the biggest game of his life, 24 hours before he has a possible date with destiny in the same building, Avery will find out tonight what it's like to sit in the stands in the stadium with the highest decibel rating in baseball. And he will be rooting against the University of Minnesota football team.
Call it the fresh confidence of youth.
Thanks to the Atlanta Braves' relentless 14-5 win over the Minnesota Twins last night, Avery will try to clinch the first World Series championship in the history of his team when he starts Game 6 tomorrow night. But, first things first.
Because of the World Series, the football game between Michigan and Minnesota was rescheduled for tonight -- a fact Avery has been reminding his teammates for the last two nights. "I got my tickets," Avery said after the Braves took a 3-2 lead last night. "I'll be there."
A native of Taylor, Mich., Avery said he has been a fan of the Wolverines since he was "5 or 6 years old," and tonight's game offers him a unique diversion from the distractions of a World Series.
"I usually go to all their games when I'm home," he said. "They're my favorite team, and this will give me something to do instead of sitting around a hotel room."
Avery simply isn't overly concerned about the importance of tomorrow night's game.
"It seems like every game I've pitched for the last month and a half has been the biggest game of my life," he said. "I think I'm ready for another one."
The idea of his prize, 21-year-old lefthander sitting in the Metrodome in the midst of a rabid Minnesota crowd doesn't faze Braves' general manager John Schuerholz anymore than it does Avery.
"Hell no," said Schuerholz, when asked if Avery's plans concerned him. "He's 21 years old. It's probably a lot better than where I'd be if I was 21 years old."
If Avery is affected by the magnitude of his last assignment of the year, he has done a masterful job of hiding it. Maybe that's because he has an even more important engagement a week from tomorrow: He's getting married.
"It would be nice," he said, "to win the World Series one week and get married the next."
Ever since his last start, the Braves' 5-4, 12-inning win in Game 2, Avery has maintained he would get another start in this World Series. He just didn't know whether it would be Game 6 or 7 -- or if it would be for the whole bag of marbles, or one last chance.
Now that he knows, he admits to some anxiousness and displays a lot of confidence. "We're very comfortable with our situation," he said after the Braves won their third straight home game to wrest the lead from the Twins, who opened with a pair of wins at home.
"We know they can come back," said Avery. "They showed that in the game I pitched, and they started to come back again tonight. They're a tough club at home.
"But I think we'll be a little more comfortable going in there [the Metrodome] this time. The fact that we know we only have to win one game helps."
As a team, the Braves played down the impact last night's stunning defeat might have on the Twins, while insisting they will be better prepared to deal with the intangibles of the Metrodome.
"It can only get so loud," said David Justice, who drove in five runs last night and broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. "I won't say we're comfortable going in there, but we have confidence."
When the Braves opened the World Series, they might have been in awe of the Metrodome, but that no longer seems to be the case. "It's a tough place to play," said catcher Greg Olson, "but now we are going to Minnesota in anticipation of winning the World Series."
The Cardinals said the same thing in 1987, when they lost a World Series that had an identical pattern as this one. But they also appeared to have more apprehension than this Atlanta team.
"I thought we played well up there," said Avery. "We outplayed them in Game 2, we just didn't get any hits. Our bats may have been a little tired."
That certainly wasn't the case last night. With Justice, Mark (MVP) Lemke and what seemed like a supporting cast of dozens, not even an uncharacteristic streak of wildness by Tom Glavine slowed the Braves' onslaught.
They took a 5-0 lead and, after the Twins walked back to within 5-3, the game got out of hand in the sixth. Lonnie Smith started the inning with his third home run in as many games and Lemke capped it with his second triple of the night (and third of the Series, one short of the record).
Tonight, Avery plans to sit in the Metrodome and get a feel for what it's like to have a visiting team win -- even if it is in a different sport. He could have more trouble in the stands than the Wolverines experience on the floor of the Metrodome.
Then it will be up to the Twins to try and jolt Avery back to the reality of life in the Metrodome.
If they don't, the World Series will have its most improbable winner of all time.