Padres manager Bruce Bochy wanted to close out the Atlanta Braves as quickly as possible. Kevin Brown, it turns out, wasn't the right guy to do it.
Instead of Brown adding to his Braves-killer reputation, Atlanta made some history. It became the first team to win two games after being down 3-0 in a seven-game series, with Greg Maddux closing for the first save of his pro career.
"I feel like I had my best guy out there with a chance to win the ballgame, who was rested, and I'll take my chances there," Bochy said. "Sure it didn't work out, and I take responsibility for that. Sure it's a calculated risk, but I thought it was well worth taking."
Bochy's move looked good in the seventh, when Brown came on with a 4-2 lead, runner on and no outs and retired the side.
| The Padres couldn't find an answer for the Braves after losing the lead in the eighth inning. (AP) |
With one out, Tucker lined a 3-2 pitch over the right-field fence to give Atlanta a 5-4 lead.
With the crowd of 58,988 sitting stunned, Tucker, who finished with five RBI, pumped his fist as he rounded first and looked at the spot where the ball landed, as if amazed he really did it against Brown.
"The feeling in the dugout was that we were going to get him," Tucker said. "He really didn't have that extra giddy-up you really want to have."
Tucker hit a forkball down.
"I feel bad from the standpoint that we came back only to give it back to them," Brown said.
Bochy said there was no discussion about bringing in left-hander Randy Myers, acquired in part because the Padres figured they'd meet Atlanta in the playoffs.
Myers threw 26 pitches on Sunday, loading the bases ahead of Andres Galarraga's grand slam off Dan Miceli in Atlanta' 8-3 win.
(Brown) just ran a deep count, and I just had all the confidence in the world in Brownie there," Bochy said.
It was no stretch for Greg Maddux to nail down the victory. (AP)
Brown, who had been 6-0 with a 1.85 ERA in his last eight starts against Atlanta, was the loser in just his third career relief appearance. John Rocker won in relief.
The Braves still might have to beat Brown, who pitched a shutout in Game 2, one more time in this series. He had been scheduled to pitch Game 6 Wednesday against Tom Glavine, but Bochy said he'd probably use Sterling Hitchcock instead. Brown would be ready for Game 7 against Maddux, if necessary.
Tucker's homer highighted a five-run rally in the eighth that made it 7-4. Tucker drove in Atlanta's first five runs.
After Tucker's homer, Donne Wall relieved and walked Rocker, who scored on Tony Graffanino's two-out double. Graffanino took third on the throw home and scored on shortstop Chris Gomez's throwing error.
Maddux, who had not relieved since 1987, got three outs. The four-time Cy Young winner struck out pinch-hitter Greg Vaughn, playing for the first time since straining his left quadriceps in Game 1, and retired Quilvio Veras on a grounder.
After Steve Finley drew a rare walk from Maddux, the Atlanta ace got Tony Gwynn on a game-ending grounder.
The Padres were nine outs from clinching the pennant Sunday night when Atlanta rallied for six runs, capped by Andres Galarraga's grand slam in the seventh, to win 8-3.
Ken Caminiti and John Vander Wal hit clutch two-out, two-run homers off John Smoltz, whose 11 postseason wins are the most ever. Caminiti's homer came in the first inning for a 2-0 lead and Vander Wal's in the sixth for a 4-2 lead.
Smoltz came in 3-0 with two no-decisions in five postseason starts when Atlanta faced elimination this decade. He beat Chicago in the division series for his 11th postseason victory, the most ever.
Vander Wal, acquired late in the season mainly because he hits Braves pitchers so well, broke a 2-all tie when he homered to left on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the sixth.
Vander Wal, hitting .438 lifetime against Smoltz, made his second start in place of Vaughn, San Diego's 50-homer man.
Tucker singled in the Braves' first two runs, in the fourth and sixth innings, both off starter Andy Ashby.
Ashby allowed four straight one-out singles in the fourth, including Tucker's to cut San iego's lead to 2-1. With runners on first and third and Smoltz bunting, the Padres pitched out on a squeeze play and Andruw Jones in a rundown, with Ashby tagging him out at the plate.
The Braves tied it at 2 in the sixth. Jones singled with two outs and stole second. The Padres chose to pitch to Tucker with Smoltz coming up, and he hit a tying single to center.
Smoltz allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings, struck out eight and walked one. Ashby gave up two runs and nine hits in six innings.
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