Braves going, almost gone

Curtis' 2nd HR in 10th caps Yanks' rally, 6-5, for 3-0 Series lead

He's hero in 1st Series start

Glavine blows 5-1 lead

tying HR caught, lost

October 27, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The Atlanta Braves have one more game to lose, but whatever realistic hope they had of winning the 95th World Series disappeared over the left-field fence at 11: 37 last night.

New York Yankees outfielder Chad Curtis homered into the bullpen to lead off the 10th inning and carry the defending world champions to a 6-5 comeback victory at Yankee Stadium that put the 1999 baseball season on 24 hours notice.

The sudden-death moonshot off reliever Mike Remlinger was Curtis' second home run of the game and the fourth for the Yankees, who took a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Fall Classic. No major-league team has ever overcome a three-game deficit to win a postseason series, and there is little reason to think the Braves will be the first.

They suddenly bear a striking resemblance to the 1998 San Diego Padres, who lasted just four rounds with the Yankees in last year's World Series. Future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens can wrap up the third pinstriped world title in four years with a strong performance in Game 4 against veteran John Smoltz.

"We still have our rotation intact," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "It's still possible. We've won four games in a row before. Not in the World Series, of course. Tonight would have been really nice, but we just have to keep going."

The Yankees continued a long tradition of unsung postseason heroes. Curtis wasn't even a sure thing to be on their roster, but he had the night of his life in his first World Series start.

"It was special," Curtis said. "I know I have never hit a walk-off home run in the regular season. I've heard people talk about the feeling. When I rounded second base, I felt a sort of electricity in my legs. Then to round third and see my teammates coming out to greet me. It was just a great feeling."

It was the night of the little guy. Diminutive second baseman Chuck Knoblauch made Curtis' 10th-inning heroics possible when he sliced a game-tying two-run home run that barely got over the right-field fence. "It's always somebody you don't expect," Cox said. "That's the way it is in the World Series. Curtis was the star tonight. Up to that point, it was Scott Brosius in the first two games. It's always somebody like that."

Remlinger did not second-guess himself for the 1-1 changeup that pushed the Braves to the brink of elimination. There was no point. In another year of the Yankee, if it isn't one pitch, it's another.

"I threw him a first-pitch fastball the other night and he popped it up to right," Remlinger said. "Tonight, he fouled it off. I threw him another fastball and missed upstairs. In my mind, there's no better situation to throw a changeup. That's what [catcher] Greg Myers called and that's what I was thinking.

"If I was in the same situation after throwing those same two pitches, I can't say I'd do anything differently in tomorrow night's game. You can tip your hat to him or say bad pitch by me. Whatever. We lost. It doesn't really matter whose fault it is."

But this was the game the Braves could not lose. They had scored just three runs in the first two games, but finally broke out their bats against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte. One out into the fourth inning, they had more hits than they had totaled in the first two games (7) and had a 5-1 lead.

Obviously, the desperate nature of the situation had brought the offense back to life, but only until the Yankees' bullpen took over for Pettitte in the fourth. Jason Grimsley and Jeff Nelson stacked up scoreless innings until closer Mariano Rivera emerged with the extra-inning victory.

The Braves should have seen it coming. The Yankees never go quietly into that Bronx night. They fell behind by four runs and appeared to be firmly under the thumb of Braves left-hander Tom Glavine, but they chipped away and chipped away and finally found their way back into the game.

It started with a bases-empty home run by Curtis in the fifth inning, one of those cue shots to the opposite field that seemed -- at the time -- like a fluke. Then came a more impressive blast by first baseman Tino Martinez in the seventh and the heartbreaking two-run shot by Knoblauch that bounced in and out of the glove of a leaping Brian Jordan in the right-field corner.

"We got beat with a pop-up to right field," Cox said. "A Yankee home run. It went about 315 feet."

Glavine certainly deserved better. He took the mound three days after a severe stomach virus forced him out of the Game 1 assignment, but showed no signs of fatigue as he dominated the Yankees in the early innings.

The Yankees scored a run in the first, but only because another shot by Knoblauch popped out of Jordan's glove for a two-base error. The only hit in the inning was a looper by Paul O'Neill that landed in left field to score Knoblauch.

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