Braves in a spot Glavine in spotlight

Pitching hero of Game 2 to get start with Atlanta on brink of elimination

October 14, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Can Tom Glavine do it again?

The first time he pitched in the National League Championship Series, it was an important start but not a critical one.

Tonight, in Game 6 at Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves are facing a win-or-else situation.

The Florida Marlins need one victory to become the youngest expansion team (fifth season) to advance to the World Series.

Atlanta needs two victories to reach its fifth World Series since 1991.

Glavine dazzled the Marlins in Game 2, throwing a three-hitter with some relief after the Braves had dropped the opener.

Whenever Atlanta is in trouble, its defense mechanism is its great starting staff.

Braves general manager John Schuerholz, a Baltimore native, said yesterday that the team doesn't panic because of "the confidence in the pitchers. The players feel every time they take the field, the pitchers will allow them the opportunity to remain in the game."

And Glavine is probably the most unflappable of the Big Four.

The left-hander said that the quality of the Braves' starters "enables us to come from behind a little easier. With any guy we run out there, you always have a chance.

"And, as a ballclub, we tend to play a little better when we get our backs against the wall. Our intensity is a little better when push comes to shove."

Glavine's first start of the series was masterful. Kurt Abbott collected two of the three hits against him, and no Marlin advanced beyond second base until Devon White doubled home the Florida run in the eighth inning.

He said he is better prepared when he knows he is going to pitch -- the case this time.

"It gets difficult when you prepare for a start that you hope is not going to happen," said Glavine, an 8-8 pitcher in postseason and 3-5 in the NLCS. "As soon as we lost Game 3, I knew I had to pitch again. That's a better situation. I've wanted to pitch since we lost the second game."

He told John Smoltz (who would start Game 7): "You're in the worst position you can be in because you're hoping you don't have to pitch again."

Glavine is not the fastest thrower among the Braves' starters (Smoltz is), but he is fast enough and very adept at pitching to locations.

His path in Game 2 was cleared when the Braves jumped to a 5-0 lead after three innings against a hurting Alex Fernandez.

Glavine said afterward that not showing tension beforehand was a vital part of his demeanor.

"If the other guys saw their starting pitcher come into the locker room all tense and jittery, it would be transferable. I try to be my normal self and goof around like usual," he said.

Neither Glavine nor manager Bobby Cox had much sympathy for the pitching plight of the Marlins, whose loss of Fernandez (torn rotator cuff) and Kevin Brown (pushed back two games because of the flu) left their staff thin.

"I don't know how much sympathy you're going to get from teams this time of year," Glavine said.

"In a series like this, you want to see everybody at peak capacity. But if we start feeling sorry for anybody, we're in trouble."

"We have injuries, too," Cox said. "None of those pitchers goes out there pain-free every night on either side."

However, Cox acknowledged that the Braves have been fortunate in that respect.

"But you never know when that [injury bug] is going hit you," Cox said.

"I'm sure they didn't expect Fernandez to go down like he did."

Marlins catcher Charles Johnson said the key against Glavine is to hold the Braves' offense in check.

"You know he's going to be tough," Johnson said. "You know he's going to make his pitches. So, you want to hold the Braves down as much as you can and stay in the game."

Glavine was the winning pitcher in last year's Game 7 clincher against the St. Louis Cardinals, going seven innings in a 15-0 romp.

Expansion exploits

1990s success of recent expansion teams in the four major sports:

Sport .. .. ..Team .. .. .. ..1st Year .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Skinny

Football .. ..Carolina .. .. .1995 .. .. .. .Lost in '96 NFC title game

.. .. .. .. ..Jacksonville ...1995 .. .. .. .Lost in '96 AFC title game

Baseball .. ..Colorado .. .. .1993 .. .. .. .Lost in '95 Division Series

.. .. .. .. ..Florida .. .. ..1993 .. .. .. .Has reached '97 NLCS

Hockey .. .. .Florida .. .. ..1993-94 .. .. .Lost '96 Stanley Cup Finals

Basketball ...Orlando .. .. ..1989-90 .. .. .Lost in '95 NBA Finals

Pub Date: 10/14/97

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