D'backs hit World Series quickest, 3-2

Johnson tops Braves as franchise makes it in just fourth year

October 22, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Pulled out of the broadcast booth to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks this season, Bob Brenly took the first steps in his new profession directly to the World Series.

The only obstacle in Brenly's path was removed last night when substitute Erubiel Durazo hit a two-run homer and Randy Johnson toughened when necessary, eliminating the Atlanta Braves from the National League Championship Series with a 3-2 victory in Game 5 before only 35,652 at Turner Field.

Batting for an injured Mark Grace in the fifth inning, Durazo went to the opposite field off Tom Glavine to break a 1-1 tie. The lead held up despite steady pressure applied to Johnson, who left the bases loaded in the seventh by striking out Brian Jordan on a slider in the dirt. Closer Byung-Hyun Kim got the last six outs after Johnson, having thrown 118 pitches, was removed.

In their fourth year of existence, the Diamondbacks reached the World Series faster than any other expansion team, beating the 1997 Florida Marlins by one season. They'll play either the New York Yankees or the Seattle Mariners in Saturday's Game 1 in Phoenix.

Brenly became the first manager to reach the World Series in his first full season since Kansas City's Jim Frey in 1980 and the first in the NL since Cincinnati's Sparky Anderson in 1970. Like the others, Brenly came in cold, just as the Braves exited the NLCS.

They were trying to become only the fourth team to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the LCS. The Braves were the last to pull it off, storming past the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996. No other NL club had done it.

No other club had to face Johnson, who won for the second time in the series but appeared much more vulnerable than during his Game 1 shutout. Julio Franco drove in both Atlanta runs with a bases-empty homer in the fourth - ending Johnson's scoreless-innings streak at 17 - and a two-out single in the seventh. He flied to center for the game's final out, with Kim drifted toward catcher Damian Miller for the anticipated pileup as the ball hung in the air.

"It's easy when you have a group of guys like this to work with," Brenly said. "All these guys are champions. They believed in what we were trying to do this year and I believed in them, and it all paid off."

It certainly did for second baseman Craig Counsell, named Most Valuable Player in the series after batting .381 with four RBIs. "You have to stick with what makes you successful. That's what I tried to do," he said.

"He got more out of his ability," Johnson said, "which is probably more than we expected from him sometimes."

Every move Brenly made last night worked in his favor. He went against the numbers by starting Danny Bautista in center field over Steve Finley. Batista delivered Arizona's first run with a single in the fourth inning, and made a diving catch on a shallow fly ball by Mark DeRosa with two runners on base in the fifth.

Brenly sent up Durazo in the bottom half after Grace left the game with tightness in his right hamstring. Making only his second plate appearance in the series, Durazo snuck a ball inside the left-field foul pole, after Glavine got two strikes on him, to become only the fifth player in LCS history to homer as a pinch hitter. Five of his 12 homers this season came off the bench.

"We thought about putting Greg Colbrunn at first base," Brenly said, "but we thought with the way the game was going, we better put our better defensive player in there."

Durazo had been riding a stationary bike in the clubhouse to stay loose. "You never know when you'll be put in as a pinch hitter," he said. "I was looking for something outside, a pitch I could drive to the opposite field."

Both runs off Glavine that inning were unearned after second baseman Marcus Giles committed the Braves' seventh error of the series. Durazo's homer came with two outs, when Glavine should have been in the dugout. He didn't come out for the sixth, his season ending on 99 pitches.

The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, will continue playing through the last days of October.

"Because they're veterans, they all understand the ebb and flow of a major-league season," Brenly said. "Unless you're the Seattle Mariners, nobody goes out there and wins every day. You're going to have good streaks and you're going to have bad streaks. They didn't get too giddy when we were playing well or too down when we were playing poorly. They knew ultimately if we kept grinding away every day, good things were going to happen."

They usually do with Johnson on the mound. He had faced Glavine in six consecutive starts against the Braves until Game 1, when he was matched up with Greg Maddux. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox's decision to go with a three-man staff in the playoffs reunited them last night.

Glavine had the Braves' only win in the NLCS, allowing one run in seven innings after shutting out Houston for eight innings in the Division Series. A one-out single by Grace in the fourth began a rally that broke the scoreless tie. Matt Williams walked before Bautista lined a run-scoring single into center field - the ball speeding past Giles' outstretched glove.

The Braves stranded nine runners, including Keith Lockhart after a four-pitch walk in the ninth. "I think they've got a great chance," Cox said.

"It hasn't quite sunk in," Johnson said. "and I don't know that it will for another day or two."

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