Millwood nails down one-hitter as Braves level series with Astros

In 1st playoff start, pitcher strikes out 8

Caminiti HR lone blemish in 5-1 victory

October 07, 1999|By ATLANTA | ATLANTA,NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

ATLANTA -- There were moments in the third inning yesterday, Kevin Millwood said, when he slipped a couple of sliders and curveballs past Houston hitters and knew he was in complete control of those tricky pitches. He felt buoyed by the way they veered across the plate.

"From then on," Millwood said, "I knew if I threw the right pitch and kept them guessing a little bit, it was going to be a pretty good ballgame."

Try great. In his first postseason appearance, Millwood threw a one-hitter, facing just two batters over the minimum as the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros, 5-1, to even their National League Division Series at one game apiece.

The teams resume the series tomorrow at the Astrodome, where the Braves are 40-16 since 1991.

Millwood struck out eight, didn't walk a batter and set two Division Series records -- fewest hits allowed in a complete game and most consecutive hitless innings (seven).

Each of his pitches -- fastball, curveball, slider -- was baffling to the Astros. "There's very few days you can go out on the mound and you've got all three working, where you can get guys out with all three," Millwood said.

There was more gushing after Millwood's performance than there is in the average puff-piece profile in a celebrity magazine. Millwood, 24, earned all of it.

Astros manager Larry Dierker said it was the best game that's been pitched against his team this year. "We really only hit two balls hard," Dierker said.

Loser Jose Lima, a Cy Young contender himself, said that race ought to boil down to Millwood vs. Randy Johnson.

And Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said the game belonged in Braves' lore alongside the one-hit, eight-inning gem that Tom Glavine pitched against Cleveland in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series.

Coming into the game, opposing batters had hit just .202 against Millwood, the lowest mark against a starting pitcher in the majors. He's often overshadowed by his more famous rotation-mates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, but Millwood, in his second full year, is clearly blossoming.

He said he was worried whether he could sleep the night before the game -- it was his first postseason appearance since Single-A, after all -- but his excess of nervous energy ultimately wore him out and he slept soundly.

The effervescent Lima, who wanted dearly to prove himself in the postseason after getting snubbed for a start last year, knew only frustration. Pitching on three days' rest, he wasn't sharp enough, allowing nine hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Millwood made one mistake, trying to spot a fastball on the outside corner against Ken Caminiti in the second. But the ball drifted too close to the middle of the plate. Caminiti smashed a homer, his second homer of the series.

Millwood didn't allow another runner until Chipper Jones booted Jeff Bagwell's grounder in the seventh. Bagwell was the last Astro runner.

"I'm kinda glad he had given up the home run, or my error would have cost him a perfect game," joked Jones.

Millwood nearly made another gaffe in the eighth -- he started getting too excited on the mound and had to walk around to calm himself. "I had to back off a little," he said.

A switch in the batting order paid off for the Braves. Cox moved Brian Jordan back to cleanup, flopping him and Ryan Klesko in the 4-5 spots. It worked, big-time. Jordan had two RBI and Klesko was 3-for-4 with one RBI.

Playoff 1-hitters

With date, pitcher(s), team, when hit occurred and score:

Oct. 9, 1974: Mike Cuellar (4 2/3 innings), Ross Grimsley (4 1/3), Orioles, one out in the 7th. Orioles lost to Oakland, 2-1.

Oct. 12, 1990: Danny Jackson (6 innings), Norm Charlton (1), Randy Myers (2), Cincinnati, one out in the 5th. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh 2-1.

Oct. 6, 1999: Kevin Millwood, Atlanta, one out in the 2nd. Atlanta beat Houston, 5-1.

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