Braves say 'not so fast' to Padres Galarraga grand slam powers Atlanta to first win in series, 8-3

San Diego bullpen falters

Rally averts sweep

heart of order warms


SAN DIEGO -- The heart of the Atlanta Braves' batting order finally woke up from its National League Championship Series funk. The question now is whether it will be too late.

Coming into this game, the Braves had dropped the first three games of the best-of-seven series, in large part because their Nos. 3 through 6 hitters -- Chipper Jones, Andres Galarraga, Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez -- had not driven in a run. But last night, before 65,042 screaming fans at a sold-out Qualcomm Stadium, the four combined to drive in every run but one as the Braves rallied for an 8-3 victory over the San Diego Padres to avert a humiliating sweep.

The last four runs of the game came off the bat of the player who had been the biggest disappointment of what was turning into the biggest disappointment of the postseason, the Braves themselves. Galarraga, who had been 1-for-12 in the series, smacked a grand slam off Dan Miceli to cap a six-run seventh inning, three batters after Ozzie Guillen, a surprise starter, had singled in the go-ahead run off Randy Myers.

Guillen's opposite-field hit to left had come four batters after Lopez had homered off Joey Hamilton to tie the score at 3-3.

In the first 34 innings of the series, Padres pitchers had held the Braves to five runs. After Galarraga's grand slam, the Atlanta batters had bettered that total by one in the seventh inning.

Before the day began, Jones, Galarraga, Klesko and Lopez were a combined 5-for-36 (.139). Last night, the four went 5-for-14 with a pair of homers, and gave the Braves hope they can get back to Atlanta down, three games to two, in the series, if John Smoltz can defeat Andy Ashby here tonight.

"We feel now that it's a two-game series here," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox had said before the game.

The Braves won the first and are still breathing. But no team in baseball history has rallied from a 3-0 postseason deficit.

At the very least, last night's game justified Cox's decision to start Denny Neagle.

Like his more celebrated counterparts in the Braves' rotation, Neagle pitched a competent game. But, when he departed after 5 2/3 innings trailing by 3-2, the crowd was chanting for a sweep.

The Padres had scored twice in the third on a run-scoring double from Tony Gwynn (who was 5-for-31 in his career against Neagle up to that point) and a two-out, run-scoring single from Jim Leyritz.

But this time, the Braves scrapped their way back. Hamilton was throwing the ball as hard as 96 miles per hour. But Keith Lockhart belted a triple to right-center field on Hamilton's first pitch of the fourth and Jones singled home his first run of the series as the Braves drew within a run.

Out came Dave Stewart, the San Diego pitching coach. Galarraga then grounded into a short-to-second-to-first double play, and Hamilton retired Klesko on a grounder to short to end the inning.

It was still a one-run game entering the sixth when Jones -- who had been 2-for-12 over the first three games -- doubled into the right-field corner with two out for his second hit of the day. Galarraga worked out a walk. And then Klesko singled to left for his first run batted in of the series to tie the game at 2-2, although Galarraga was caught in a rundown.

When Leyritz stroked a 1-2 pitch from Neagle over the right-center field fence in the bottom of the sixth for his seventh career postseason home run, the Padres had a 3-2 advantage and it looked as if Leyritz would be the hero again.

But then Lopez knocked a fastball over the fence in right for his first RBI of the series to start the seventh. The game was deadlocked at 3-3. Andruw Jones followed Lopez's homer with an infield single to second, and that was all for Hamilton.

And even though Ken Caminiti robbed Greg Colbrunn of a hit by throwing him out on a hard smash to third, Guillen slapped a two-out, run-scoring single to left. Ruben Rivera closed his glove too soon trying to field the ball on a hop, enabling Jones to beat the throw home, and the Braves had a 4-3 lead, their first of the game.

Guillen, meanwhile, took second on Rivera's belated throw home, then advanced to third when Lockhart beat out an infield hit on an 0-2 pitch. Myers then walked Chipper Jones on a full-count pitch to load the bases.

On came the Miceli to face Galarraga, who drilled a 1-0 pitch to deep left-center field for his first four RBIs of the series.

Pitching line

Today's playoff game

NLCS: Game 5

Atlanta Smoltz (R) -170 18-3 2.81

at San Diego Ashby (R) 8: 10 17-9 3.33

Note: Statistics include postseason.

Playoffs today

NL Championship Series

Game 5: Atlanta at San Diego, 8: 10 p.m., chs. 45, 5

NLCS schedule

Atlanta vs. San Diego (San Diego leads 3-1)

Game 1

San Diego 3, Atlanta 2, 10 inn.

Game 2

San Diego 3, Atlanta 0

Game 3

San Diego 4, Atlanta 1

Last night: Game 4

Atlanta 8, San Diego 3

Tonight: Game 5

Atlanta (Smoltz, 18-3, 2.81) at San Diego (Ashby, 17-9, 3.33), 8: 10 p.m.

Wednesday: Game 6*

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

Thursday: Game 7*

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

*-If necessary

Note: Pitchers' stats include postseason.

TV: All games on chs. 45, 5

Pub Date: 10/12/98

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