Smith, Braves slam Blue Jays '91 goat and hero change roles as HR decks Morris, 7-2

October 23, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

TORONTO -- How sweet it must have been for Lonnie Smith to circle the bases last night. How sweet to be a World Series hero after knowing the flip side of postseason success.

Maybe now they will forget that his base-running mistake cost the Atlanta Braves the world championship a year ago. Maybe not. But his grand slam off Jack Morris in the fifth inning of last night's Game 5 carried the Braves to a 7-2 victory and kept the champagne on ice for at least another couple of days.

Talk about a classic case of role reversal. Morris was the World Series MVP in 1991. He was the primary beneficiary when the Minnesota Twins infield distracted Smith long enough to keep him from scoring the potential winning run in Game 7. This time, he was the victim of the cruel joke. The Braves hammered him for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings to keep him winless in this postseason.

It all came down to the five-run fifth inning that didn't even begin to develop until there were two outs. It all came down to a tie-breaking single by Deion Sanders and a 1-2 pitch that Smith sliced over the right-field fence for the first grand slam ever hit by a designated hitter in World Series play. It all came down around Morris, who finished his postseason with an 0-3 record and 7.43 ERA.

"I can't tell you enough how humbling this game is," Morris said. "That's part of it. If you're around long enough, you have to take all of it. Tonight, I took the bad part.

"It's not easy to stand here in front of everyone because the results don't measure up to what I've accomplished in the past. I guess the positive thing is that the Braves have won two games and I pitched both of them. They're in real trouble now, because I'm not pitching again."

How ironic that the Blue Jays should sign Morris on the basis of his postseason success last year and get no return on that investment in the postseason this year. But they remain in control of the best-of-seven series. They lead 3-2 and need to win just one of the next two games to bring the world championship to Canada for the first time.

The sellout crowd of 52,268 wanted to get it done at SkyDome. Thousands of Toronto residents were poised to party in the streets last night and attend a world championship parade today. They will have to wait at least until tomorrow, when David Cone takes the mound against Steve Avery in Game 6 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Right-hander John Smoltz pitched a solid six innings, giving up two runs on five hits to earn his fifth career postseason victory without a defeat. He has gained quite a reputation for pitching well in pressure situations, but this was the first time he was rewarded with a victory in four World Series starts.

Smoltz turned in a spectacular performance when he faced Morris in the deciding game of last year's World Series, but got no offensive support and no decision. He also pitched well in Game 7 of this year's National League playoffs, but was not around when the Braves won in the ninth.

This time, he struggled to control his curveball and was fortunate to get through the early innings without ever falling behind. The Blue Jays had runners all over the place, but had to settle for a pair of RBI hits by catcher Pat Borders to stay close.

"In comparison to my other series starts, this would have to be last," Smoltz said, "but I'm excited to win."

The suspense built until the fifth, when Smith delivered the biggest hit of his big-league career and put another big dent in Morris' reputation as the premier postseason pitcher.

"It was a tough at-bat," Smith said. "It was a fastball. I've always had trouble pulling Jack. I got a ball out over the plate, so I tried to go with it."

He sliced the ball over the 375 sign in right and turned a one-run game into an easy victory.

"I thought I had hit it hard enough to go out," he said, "but Joe Carter kept chasing it and I started to doubt it."

The Braves had entered Game 5 facing a very pressing question: Would they wake up in time to postpone their winter vacation and push the series back to Atlanta?

There was room for doubt after a pair of very quiet offensive performances in the first two games at SkyDome. The Braves were so quiet in Game 4, in fact, that outfielder David Justice ripped the club yesterday morning on his Atlanta radio show.

"The enthusiasm wasn't there. . . . The bench was dead, like a spring training game," Justice said. "You looked over at them and they looked like they wanted to win."

First baseman Sid Bream echoed the same sentiment during a pre-game interview, but manager Bobby Cox became agitated when Justice's comments were read to him yesterday. Never mind that the Braves were batting a combined .185 after four games. Cox insisted that the intensity level was not a problem.

"We couldn't have been more fired up, in my estimation," Cox said. "Some guys say these things and they don't know what they're saying. That's a crock."

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