Behind eight ball, Braves rise On brink of pennant, Padres yield 5 runs in 8th inning to fall, 7-6

Ace Brown fails in relief

Maddux closes win after S.D. gets 2 in 9th


SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres had just taken a two-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning and now Kevin Brown, a man who not long ago resembled the grim reaper in the eyes of Atlanta Braves fans, was stomping in from the bullpen to a blaring soundtrack of heavy-metal rock 'n' roll.

The World Series was only nine outs away and San Diego manager Bruce Bochy wasn't taking any chances. He was going right for the jugular, with his best and sharpest stiletto, and 58,988 foot-stomping San Diegans told him they loved the move.

But that stiletto turned out to be duller than a butter knife.

Called upon to deliver his team to its second World Series in its 30-year history, Brown instead became the victim of one of the most stirring comebacks in postseason history.

Michael Tucker, the Braves' No. 8 hitter, hit a three-run homer off Brown with one out in the top of the eighth inning to rescue the desperate Braves and send them on to a dramatic 7-6 win in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series last night.

Tucker's homer gave the Braves a 5-4 lead. Before the eighth inning was over, the Braves put two more runs on the board to build their lead to 7-4. Those runs came in very handy because pinch hitter Greg Myers hit a two-run homer in the ninth to make it a one-run game.

The homer came off rookie Kerry Ligtenberg with no outs. With the crowd in a state of delirium, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox had to bring in staff ace Greg Maddux.

Maddux, who had not relieved since 1987, got three outs for the first save of his pro career.

Maddux struck out pinch hitter Greg Vaughn, playing for the first time since straining his left quadriceps in Game 1, and retired Quilvio Veras on a grounder. After Steve Finley drew a walk from Maddux, the Atlanta ace got Tony Gwynn on a game-ending grounder as the Braves became the first team trailing a seven-game series 3-0 to come back to win two games.

Before Tucker's homer touched off the big eighth-inning rally, the Braves were five outs away from going home for the off-season.

Now, they are headed home to Atlanta with a boatload of momentum for Game 6 tomorrow.

One would have to think the pitching matchups favor the Braves. Twenty-game winner Tom Glavine will pitch tomorrow and Maddux, the four-time Cy Young winner, is ready for a seventh game, if necessary.

The Padres had planned to start Brown, a legitimate Braves killer, in Game 6. Now, Sterling Hitchcock will do it on short rest. Brown threw 41 pitches in his relief assignment last night. He should be ready to come back for Game 7, but how effective will he be? Bochy, who has a pretty sound bullpen in the first place, will be second-guessed for years about bringing Brown into this game.

"It's a tough one, no question about it," Bochy said. "We said before the game if we had a two-run lead, we'd use Brownie. He had three days' rest.

"We had our best out there, but it didn't work out."

After hitting .200 and scoring only three runs in the first three games of the series, the Braves have scored 15 runs and pounded out 26 hits the last two nights -- mainly in late-inning rallies -- to prolong their season.

Cox sent John Smoltz (11-3 in postseason) to the mound last night and the classic big-game pitcher was, at times, dominating. He struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings and appeared to be much sharper than his counterpart, Andy Ashby.

But Smoltz suffered two gaping wounds on home run balls. He gave up a two-run shot to Ken Caminiti with two outs in the first.

Then, after retiring 15 of the next 18 -- seven via strikeout -- Smoltz fell victim to another two-run homer. John Vander Wal's two-out, opposite-field drive gave the Padres a 4-2 lead and, seemingly, the pennant.

Bochy brought in reliever Mark Langston to start the seventh inning. Langston faced just one batter, Ozzie Guillen, allowing a single. As Brown trotted into the game moments later, the stadium shook.

Brown retired the Braves in order in the seventh, to put his club six outs from the World Series.

In the eighth, Brown immediately showed signs that something was askew. Ryan Klesko battled him in a tough at-bat and walked. Javy Lopez followed with a single. "The feeling in the dugout was that we were going to get him," Tucker said. "He really didn't have that extra giddy-up."

Brown then got Andruw Jones to pop out to first for the first out.

The next batter was Tucker, who already had two huge RBI singles in the game. He worked the count to 3-2 before hammering a line drive that disappeared over the right-field wall as Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn, looked on helplessly.

With the crowd sitting stunned, Tucker pumped his fist as he rounded the bases.

"I got a couple of tough strikes, fouled a couple off," Tucker said. "Then I remembered something my father told me: 'You can't swing hard and hope to hit it hard.' I just got it nice and easy and got it out of the park."

Next for NLCS


Game 6: San Diego at Atlanta, 4: 20 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Series: San Diego leads 3-2

NLCS schedule

Atlanta vs. San Diego

(San Diego leads 3-2)

Game 1: San Diego, 3-2 (10 inn.)

Game 2: San Diego, 3-0

Game 3: San Diego, 4-1

Game 4: Atlanta, 8-3

Game 5: Atlanta, 7-6, last night

Tomorrow: Game 6

San Diego (Hitchcock, 11-7, 3.80) at Atlanta (Glavine, 20-7, 2.41) 4: 20 p.m.

Thursday: Game 7*

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


Note: Pitchers' statistics include postseason.

TV: All games on chs. 45, 5

Pub Date: 10/13/98

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