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Braves One Win From Series


While the New York fans taunted Chipper Jones and John Rocker, Tom Glavine quietly pitched the Atlanta Braves to the brink of another World Series.

Glavine pitched seven sterling innings, making an unearned run in the first stand up, and the Braves silenced boisterous Shea Stadium with a 1-0 victory over the Mets in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series on Friday night.

Atlanta, which leads the best-of-7 series 3-0, can advance to its first World Series since 1996 when John Smoltz pitches against New York's Rick Reed on Saturday night.

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Game Summary

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  • "I don't think we have to wait for historians," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "The Braves pitchers are as good as there is in any era, in any decade."

    The sellout crowd of 55,911 was clearly upset by inflammatory comments made by Rocker and Jones, waving signs such as "I Want to Fight John Rocker" and serenading Jones with slow chants of "Lar-ry, Lar-ry" his given name, but one he doesn't like.

    Mike Remlinger pitched a scoreless eighth before Rocker sprinted in from the bullpen in the ninth to deafening boos. Seeming to thrive on the reception, he shook off an error by shortstop Walt Weiss to strike out Mets division series hero Todd Pratt, retire Melvin Mora on a deep fly to center and got Rey Ordonez on a weak grounder to short to end the game.

    Rocker pumped his fist at the quiet crowd while the Braves ran on the field to congratulate him. New York players walked back to their dugout with their heads down, surely aware that no team has recovered from an 0-3 deficit.

    Afterwards, Rocker lingered on the field, gleefully conducting television interviews while a handful of fans shouted obscenities from behind a barrier of police officers.

    "I don't regret anything I said," Rocker said. "`I'm probably a little more arrogant at times than I should be but I enjoy getting in these people's heads."

    Unfortunately for the Mets, the shenanigans in the stands couldn't do anything about the Braves' pitching. New York has scored just five runs in the series.

    The Mets juggled their lineup, shifting John Olerud from third to second in the order, bumping Robin Ventura from fifth to sixth and inserting right-handed hitters Benny Agbayani and Mora.

    It didn't matter against Glavine, making his record 13th LCS start. Though his career record in the championship series was just 3-8, he limited the Mets to seven singles and twice escaped when runners reached third with two outs.

    Glavine's performance brought back memories of his performance in the final game of the 1995 World Series. He allowed one hit over eight innings as the Braves claimed their only Series title of the decade with a 1-0 victory over Cleveland.

    "This is up there," Glavine said. "Obviously, that game against Cleveland was a better game for a different reason. That game brought us a championship. This game just brings us one game closer to a situation where we can fight for a World Series. I'm just happy to be able to go out there and make one run in the first inning stand up."

    Olerud, Mike Piazza and Ventura, the Mets' normal 3-4-5 hitters, have hit a combined .129 (4-of-31) with one RBI in the series. Ventura was even lifted for a pinch-hitter, Pratt, in the ninth inning.

    Atlanta's hitting was even worse than New York's on this night, managing just three hits against Al Leiter and two relievers. But the Braves took advantage of a first-inning crack in New York's record-setting defense, which had just 68 errors and a .989 fielding percentage during the regular season.

    The result was the only run of the game and it didn't even require a hit.


    AP
    Mike Piazza suffered a slight concussion on this play at the plate.
    After Gerald Williams led off the game with a walk, Bret Boone hit a dribbler in front of the plate. Leiter scooped up the ball, looked toward second then threw wide to Olerud at first base.

    Leiter, who led Mets pitchers with four errors during the regular season, stood in front of the mound with his hands on his head, as if he couldn't believe the throw he had just made.

    After Jones popped out to second, Williams and Boone worked a double steal on Piazza, who has the most errors (11) of any Mets player. The strategy paid off when his throw to second sailed into center field, allowing Williams to score and Boone to go to third.

    It was the first time all year that New York made two errors in one inning.

    After that, the Mets played brilliantly on defense. Boone tried to score from third on Brian Jordan's fly to medium center, only to be thrown out at the plate by Mora. Boone bowled over Piazza, who suffered a slight concussion but remained in the game.

    Rickey Henderson, who didn't have an assist from the outfield all season, threw out both Jones and Eddie Perez at second trying to stretch singles into doubles. In the sixth, Ordonez made a diving stop on a grounder in the hole, jumped to his feet and threw out Boone.

    But the miscues in the opening inning took the wild-card Mets to the edge of elimination. New York has been thoroughly dominated by the Braves, losing nine of 12 meetings during the regular season and 21 of 27 over the past two years.

    A year ago, Atlanta knocked the Mets out of the postseason by sweeping a three-game series on the final weekend. This time, it seems, they'll just wait a little longer to end New York's season and advance to the World Series following upset losses in the NLCS to Florida in 1997 and San Diego last year.

    Leiter, who came up big for the Mets in crucial games all year, pitched another strong game, allowing just three singles in seven innings. But it wasn't enough.

    "Al pitched great," Valentine said. "That's maybe as well as anybody has pitched in the series. It's a darn shame."

    Notes

  • Braves have won five straight postseason road games, going back to the final two games at San Diego in the 1998 NLCS.
  • Former New Yor great Tom Seaver, now a Mets broadcaster and part-time pitching instructor, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
  • A temporary wall along the first-base line tumbled over in the sixth inning as fans leaned over trying to scoop up a foul ball by Agbayani. No one was seriously hurt, but the game was delayed about five minutes while workers secured the structure.
  • Henderson's two outfield assists tied an LCS record, set three other times. The last was Bake McBride of the Phillies, who threw out two Houston runners in a 1980 NLCS game.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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