Braves chop down Giants, 8-2 Fourth head-to-head win in row cuts lead to 3 1/2 games

September 01, 1993|By Jayson Stark | Jayson Stark,Philadelphia Inquirer

ATLANTA -- The San Francisco Giants arrived last night in the land of the Tomahawk Chop, the Jane Fonda Famous Fan Workout and the Sterno Can That Almost Blew Up the Stadium.

Outside the ballpark, the Giants found an Atlanta radio station holding a Pin The Earring On Barry Bonds contest. Inside the ballpark, the Giants found Fred McGriff, baseball's scariest rotation since possibly the Civil War, and 50,000 people chanting and chopping.

"Tell you what," said Giants closer Rod Beck, stroking his famous Fu Manchu. "It doesn't get any better than this."

Anyone who guessed that Beck made that particular remark before his team got the golden gates stomped out of it, 8-2, by the Atlanta Braves last night, congratulations. You win a copy of Gene Mauch's eagerly awaited "Memories of 1964."

Because, in retrospect, it could get a lot better than this for the San Francisco Giants. One minute, they were leading the Braves, 1-0, in the fourth inning, thanks to what looked at the time like a dramatic Bonds home run off Greg Maddux. And the Giants' once-trusty ace, Billy Swift, was working on a perfect game.

Four outs later, Swift was twisting the shower knobs and the Braves had scored eight runs in a span of 13 hitters. And, thanks to their fourth straight loss to the Braves in the last week and a half, the Giants were about to see their lead in the NL West shrink to 3 1/2 games -- the smallest it has been since June 8.

That 3 1/2 -game lead might not look quite as scenic as the 10-game lead the Giants held exactly 41 days ago, or the nine-game lead they held precisely three weeks ago.

Still, they probably could find a couple of dozen other teams who gladly would trade their lot in life for that 3 1/2 -game lead and a record that stands at 39 games over .500.

"The thing I can't understand," Beck said, "is why people are talking like they're the team in first place and we're trying to catch them. Well, I've got news for everybody: That ain't the way it is. They're the ones who've got to come and get us."

Of course, most of America thinks that's exactly what the Braves did to the Giants last week in San Francisco -- when McGriff and David Justice seemed to be hitting back-to-back home runs every other inning and the Chopmeisters wiped out the Giants in a three-game series by a combined score of 20-8.

Last night the Braves picked up right where they left off. One of these days, the Giants are going to have to remind people of the kind of team they were for four months -- or their fairy-tale season is going to have a Stephen King ending.

"I'm not really worried," said Bonds, whose four hits off Greg Maddux (16-9) were twice as many as all his teammates got combined. "What concerns me is that we have to understand that Atlanta is trying to catch us. We're not trying to catch them. We can lose the next two games, and they still have to catch us.

"But we have to start right now, right here, winning these type of games -- because if we think we can make it to the playoffs playing like this and then walk in and dominate the Phillies, it's not going to happen."

They also need to make the Braves hit the brake pedal. And last night, the Braves didn't exactly look like a team that was going to wake up and turn into the Colorado Rockies.

The Giants had talked all day about how they needed to get ahead early in the game for a change. Then Bonds, not especially renowned for his big-game heroics in Atlanta, busted up a scoreless game in the fourth by bombing a majestic home run over the scoreboard in right.

A few minutes later, when Bonds made a brilliant over-the-shoulder catch of an Otis Nixon shot to start the bottom of the fourth, it looked like a Barry The Superstar kind of night -- but only until Swift fell apart.

He promptly loaded the bases on a couple of ground-ball singles and a walk. Then Justice -- who has 56 RBI just since June 26 -- lined a two-run single. And a Damon Berryhill single made it 3-1. And a Mark Lemke double made it 5-1. And the Giants never recovered.

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