Braves break out power, jolt D'backs to even series

Offense erupts late, Glavine rules in 8-1 win

October 18, 2001|By Roch Kubatko

PHOENIX -- Even with a blackened sky sweeping across Bank One Ballpark, a large shadow hung over the Atlanta Braves. It belonged to Arizona's Curt Schilling, who in two days would take the ball for Game 3, and possibly whatever hopes the Braves had of winning the National League Championship Series.

The Braves had already ridden into the eye of a 6-foot-10 storm, left-hander Randy Johnson, who thoroughly controlled them in Game 1. How could they head to Atlanta with consecutive losses and expect to gain control against Schilling, a pitcher equally adept at splintering bats and shattering dreams?

It's a proposition they won't have to face.

Finding themselves in an early must-win situation, the Braves got a leadoff home run from rookie Marcus Giles, a tie-breaking, two-run shot by catcher Javy Lopez and the usual postseason mastery from Tom Glavine in an 8-1 victory over the Diamondbacks that evened the series at a game apiece.

With Johnson in their rear-view mirror and Schilling on the horizon, the Braves needed to take advantage of last night's matchup. Glavine has the most wins of any left-hander over the past 13 years. Miguel Batista has more relief appearances than starts this season, and a journeyman's resume.

He also has a tough defeat to go along with his victory over St. Louis in the division series. The home runs were the only hits he allowed, leaving Atlanta with five against Arizona's rotation in the NLCS. Making his first start since spraining his ankle Sept. 30, Lopez followed a two-out, four-pitch walk to Andruw Jones in the seventh with a drive to right that slammed off the foul pole and broke a 1-1 tie. Lopez went after Batista's first pitch.

"You really have to give [Lopez] a lot of credit," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly. "I just heard him on an interview say he was looking for a pitch out over the plate and trying to drive it to right field. He got a pitch about 3 inches off the outside corner at the knees. Not very many guys hit that pitch out of the ballpark."

Said Lopez:"I figured he was coming around the plate since he walked Andruw Jones on four pitches. I was trying to be aggressive."

The Braves dug into Arizona's bullpen, getting a two-run double by Brian Jordan off 42-year-old Mike Morgan and a two-run homer by former Oriole B.J. Surhoff off Greg Swindell. They collected six hits in the eighth inning, including an RBI single by Rey Sanchez off Bobby Witt. The uncertainty was gone. So was the Diamondbacks' momentum in the series.

Giles, who earned enough trust from club officials that they released second baseman Quilvio Veras at the waiver deadline, crushed the first pitch from Batista. As the ball disappeared into the seats, soon to be thrown back onto the field, Giles became only the seventh player to hit a leadoff homer in the LCS. It hadn't been done in the NL since Pittsburgh's Orlando Merced in 1991.

Batista, who's pitched for five other teams, didn't allow another hit after Giles' homer until Lopez connected. He walked Chipper Jones with one out in the first inning but disposed of the next two batters. Julio Franco flied to the warning track in center to end the third inning, and second baseman Craig Counsell made a diving stop and throw to retire Chipper Jones and end the sixth.

When third baseman Matt Williams committed a two-out error in the fifth, it ended a streak of 12 consecutive hitters set down by Batista, who went 11-8 with a 3.36 ERA this season. He had been 13-24 in the majors before signing with Arizona in November -- a transaction that largely went unnoticed within the industry. Last night, he was every bit Glavine's equal until the seventh.

"What I remember in Montreal, he was a power guy who threw the ball awfully hard out of the strike zone. He was a little bit wild," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "The time we saw him [earlier this year], he was a pitcher. Somebody's done a real good job with him of making him pitch. They've harnessed all that stuff. He's completely different than he was in Montreal."

Glavine remains the same. With 12 postseason victories, he's moved into a tie with teammate John Smoltz for the most in major-league history. He's allowed one run in 15 playoff innings this year. If Johnson and Schilling are sheer power, Glavine often is uncanny precision, though he battled through seven innings last night, throwing 103 pitches while working deep into counts.

The Diamondbacks finally broke through in the sixth. They used a disputed two-out walk to Reggie Sanders -- Glavine took a few steps toward the dugout, believing he had gotten a strikeout -- and singles by Steve Finley and Williams.

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