Caminiti HR lifts Padres in 10th Braves tie opener in 9th vs. Hoffman, lose, 3-2


ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves staged an improbable rally for a ninth-inning run off San Diego's usually implacable closer, Trevor Hoffman, to send Game 1 of the National League Championship Series into extra innings.

But with one swing in the top of the 10th this morning, Ken Caminiti made sure that the Padres would keep intact their 2 1/2 -year streak of never losing a game in which they carried the lead into the ninth.

Half an inning after the Braves had scratched out a run off Hoffman, Caminiti launched a one-out homer to left-center field off reliever Kerry Lightenberg to break a 2-2 tie. After closing out the Braves in the bottom of the 10th despite allowing two walks, including one to pitcher Tom Glavine, who was pinch-hitting because the Braves had run out of position players, the Padres had a 3-2 victory to open the series.

Donne Wall relieved Hoffman to record the final out, an Andres Galarraga fly ball to deep center.

With Kevin Brown scheduled to start Game 2 here tonight, San Diego has a chance to take a 2-0 lead over the heavily favored Braves before the best-of-seven series heads to San Diego.

On an evening when daring running sent the game into extra innings, Caminiti trotted around the bases after connecting in the 10th.

"I was seeing the ball good. My timing was back," Caminiti said after the rain-delayed game ended at 1: 43 a.m. "It was big."

It was the fourth postseason homer of Caminiti's career, and helped him atone for failing to come up with a key throw that let the Braves tie it.

The odds against Atlanta coming up with a ninth-inning comeback were nothing short of astronomical. That's how good the Padres' bullpen has been over the last 2 1/2 years. But Hoffman, who converted 53 of 54 save chances this season, could not close out the victory for Andy Ashby.

Ryan Klesko walked with one out in the Atlanta ninth and surprisingly tried to take third on Javy Lopez's single to left. Ruben Rivera's throw beat him, but Caminiti did not catch the throw and Klesko -- his nose bloodied from colliding with Caminiti -- was safe.

Andruw Jones, whose home run gave Atlanta an early 1-0 lead, swung away on a 3-0 pitch and hit a sacrifice fly.

Before the ninth-inning fireworks, it seemed that the game's decisive play would feature Rivera's daring base running on a 45-foot Baltimore chop by another ex-Yankee, Jim Leyritz. Pinch-hitting for Wally Joyner with one out and Rivera on third base in the top of the eighth inning of a 1-1 ballgame, Leyritz chopped a pitch from Dennis Martinez to the shortstop side of the pitcher's mound. Martinez looked Rivera back to third before tossing to first for what looked to be an easy out.

But Rivera broke for home as soon as Martinez threw to first. Galarraga came off the bag early to throw home, but bounced his throw past catcher Lopez as Rivera scored the tie-breaking run.

Rivera had led off the eighth by doubling to left-center off Atlanta starter John Smoltz, and advanced to third on Caminiti's line out to Jones off Atlanta left-hander John Rocker. On that play, Rivera barely beat Jones' bullet from center and overslid the bag at third. But instead of reapplying the tag, Chipper Jones was showing the ball to third base umpire Greg Bonin as Rivera crawled back to safety.

The game began after a two-hour, one-minute rain delay, and huge sections of the upper deck remained unpopulated, which hid the fact that the game was not sold out anyway. The announced attendance of 42,117 at Turner Field was about 8,000 seats shy of a sellout.

"You would think going in it's going to be a tightly pitched affair," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox had said before the series. And, when the series finally began, neither Game 1 starter did anything to change anybody's mind.

The game was still scoreless in the top of the third when Andruw Jones golfed a breaking pitch from Ashby over the left-field fence.

Meanwhile, Smoltz was having trouble with his control. He allowed a bloop single to right to Carlos Hernandez to open the San Diego fifth. But after catching Chris Gomez looking at a called third strike, Ashby sacrificed Hernandez to second and Smoltz walked Veras on a full-count pitch.

On Tuesday, Cox had been asked how to contain the San Diego lineup.

"Keep them off base in front of Tony Gwynn," Cox said. "That's what Hank Aaron said this morning. So that's good enough for me."

Now the eight-time NL batting champion, who batted .321 at the age of 38 this season, was coming to the plate with the tying run in scoring position.

On Smoltz's first offering, Gwynn lined a run-scoring single over short for his second hit of the game to tie the score at 1-1. Smoltz fell behind Greg Vaughn, who hit 50 homers this season, on the first pitch. Vaughn drilled Smoltz's next pitch to deep right field, and only a sensational play by Tucker, who reached over his head to make the catch one step before crashing face JTC first into the fence, temporarily saved Atlanta.

Vaughn limped off in the fifth inning because of a strained left quadriceps. His status was day-to-day, and Rivera replaced him.

The win was a good omen for the Padres. The last five teams to win the opener of the NLCS have gone on to the World Series.



Atlanta vs. San Diego (Padres lead 1-0)

Last night: Game 1

San Diego 3, Atlanta 2, 10

Tonight: Game 2

San Diego (Brown, 18-7, 2.38) at

Atlanta (Glavine 20-6, 2.47), 8: 15 p.m.

Saturday: Game 3

Atlanta (Maddux, 18-9, 2.22) at San Diego (Hitchcock, 9-7, 3.93)

4: 15 p.m.

Sunday: Game 4

Atlanta (Neagle, 16-11, 3.55) at San Diego, 7: 45 p.m.

Monday: Game 5*

Atlanta at San Diego, 8: 10 p.m.

Oct. 14: Game 6*

San Diego at Atlanta, 4: 20 p.m.

Oct. 15: Game 7*

San Diego at Atlanta, 8: 15 p.m.

*-If necessary

TV: All games on chs. 45, 5

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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