Pitching one of the greatest postseason games in baseball history, Millwood threw a one-hitter facing only two batters above the minimum to give the Atlanta Braves a critical 5-1 victory over the Houston Astros, evening the first-round series at one game apiece.
Millwood, pitching in the postseason for the first time, allowed a second-inning homer to Ken Caminiti but that was all. It was the first complete-game one-hitter in the postseason in 32 years.
"Everything was working," he said. "My fastball was good. My curveball was good. My slider was good."
Millwood, 18-7 during the regular season, didn't pitch at all the last two postseasons while the Braves were knocked out in the NL championship series even though he won 17 games in 1998.
The Braves couldn't pass him by this year. Millwood stepped up to become the Braves most consistent starter while Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz with seven Cy Youngs among them went through assorted struggles.
"I slept pretty good last night," Millwood said. "I thought it was going to be kind of tough to get to sleep, but I think some of the nervous energy I worked up during the dakind of wore me out. I slept good."
And pitched even better, throwing the first complete game one-hitter in the postseason since Game 2 of the 1967 World Series. Boston's Jim Lonborg beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0, allowing a double to Julian Javier with two outs in the eighth.
Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers combined on a one-hitter for the Braves against Cleveland in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series. The were two other combined one-hitters in LCS play.
"A stronger game has not been pitched against us all year long," Houston manager Larry Dierker said. "We really only hit two balls hard the whole game."
With the Braves desperate for a victory after losing the first game 6-1 Tuesday, Millwood retired 15 batters in a row after Caminiti's homer.
The streak was broken when third baseman Chipper Jones booted a grounder with one out in the seventh, but the error didn't bother his pitcher.
Millwood got the next two batters on grounders. The Braves broke open a 2-1 game with three runs in the bottom half on Brian Jordan's sacrifice fly and run-scoring singles by Ryan Klesko and Andruw Jones.
The best-of-5 series shifts to the Astrodome, where the next two games will be played Friday and Saturday. If a fifth game is needed, it would be at Turner Field on Sunday.
|The Astros were hoping for a better performance from Jose Lima.|
Jordan and Klesko flip-flopped in the batting order, a move that paid off with two RBIs from Jordan, hitting fourth instead of fifth.
Klesko, dropped from the cleanup spot, had three hits, scored twice and drove in a run.
But everyone was overshadowed by Millwood, who flirted with a no-hitter several times during the regular season, allowing only two hits in four separate starts.
He went at least six innings in every start after June 28. Overall, Millwood finished second in the NL to Arizona's Randy Johnson with a 2.68 ERA and led the majors by allowing a .202 average to hitters.
"He is a dominant pitcher," Jordan said. "We needed a big game from our pitcher and he came up with a big gae for us."
The Braves got to Houston starter Jose Lima in the first inning, with Gerald Williams scoring on Jordan's two-out, broken-bat single. Lima might have been flustered by a visit from third-base umpire Bruce Froemming before the very first pitch.
Froemming noticed a stain on the right hip of Lima's uniform and walked over to check it out. The umpire appeared to touch the spot with a finger before allowing Lima to proceed.
"They have been checking the side of my pants all year," said Lima, who said the stain was simply dirt. "I don't have to cheat to win ball games."
Lima, 21-10 during the regular season but 0-2 against the Braves, went 6 2-3 innings, allowing four runs and nine hits.
Caminiti, who hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning Tuesday to seal Houston's victory, burned the Braves again in the second inning. On a 1-2 pitch, Millwood tried to sneak a fastball over the inside corner, and it wound up in the right-field seats.
That would be his only mistake.
Eddie Perez's sacrifice fly in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie. Andruw Jones had the key hit in the inning, a double that broke his 0-for-20 slump in division series play. It was Atlanta's first extra-base hit of this series.
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