Backup catcher Eddie Perez, who became a regular for Atlanta when Javy Lopez was lost for the season because of a knee injury, was the Braves leading hitter through the first three games of the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets.
Perez hit important home runs in each of the first two games and had two of Atlanta's three hits Friday night, lifting his average for the series to .600. He went into Saturday's Game 4 with nine hits in his last 13 NLCS at-bats over two years. During the regular season, he batted .249 with seven homers.
Unaccustomed to the fulltime work load, Perez said, "Right now, my knees feel worse than Javy's."
With three assists Saturday night, the Mets outfield set an NLCS record for a nine-inning game.
Rickey Henderson threw out runners at second base in consecutive innings after failing to record an assist in the regular season. Rookie Melvin Mora had the other assist, throwing out Bret Boone trying to score in the first inning. Henderson's last two-assist game came on Aug. 1, 1992, at Kansas City.
The Mets outfielders had 21 assists in the regular season.
TALK TO ME
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox wasn't pleased about ace reliever John Rocker getting into a verbal battle with Mets fans.
"He needs to work on his player-fan relationships," Cox said.
With that in mind, the manager and pitcher met before Friday night's game. Rocker pitched the ninth inning and was his usually demonstrative self.
"Apparently, it didn't do much good," Cox said of the conversation with the pitcher. "We'll meet again."
Like any manager, Bobby Valentine of the Mets isn't crazy about second-guessing. And he refuses to do it to himself.
"I think that stuff is all crazily overrated, for what it's worth," he said. "I watch all the games again. I know what went on the first time. I don't necessarily need to do it twice because I don't get to do it over. "
"You'd rather have guys get a 3-2 pitch and hit it in the gap or get a ground ball when you need it. You'd always rather have that happen. Then you wouldn't have to worry about anything else."
Closing the case
Leading 3-0, the Braves go for the sweep against the New York Mets on Saturday night. It was a role reversal from a year ago, when San Diego won the first three NLCS games against Atlanta. The Braves came back against the Padres in that series, winning the next two games to force it to Game 6 before San Diego closed the series.
Co had an explanation for that. "It's difficult to win any game this late in the season," he said.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed