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1998 Playoffs

NLCS Notebook

Braves' Rocker can do more than pitch

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Posted: Tuesday October 13, 1998 02:17 AM

  Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker scored on a double by Tony Graffanino, bowling over San Diego catcher Carlos Hernandez AP

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, who earned the win Monday night with one inning of perfect relief, helped his team at the plate and on the bases, too.

After Michael Tucker's three-run homer off Kevin Brown gave the Braves a 5-4 lead over the Padres in the eighth of Monday night's Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Rocker drew a one-out walk from Donne Wall while making his first plate appearance of the season.

"I like hitting," said Rocker, batting for the first time since he played for Class AA Greenville of the Southern League last year. "I go into the cage now and then. I can swing the bat relatively well.

"I can sit here and tell you I probably would have gotten a hit, but I wouldn't have."

Rocker then scored on a double by Tony Graffanino, bowling over San Diego catcher Carlos Hernandez, who was unable to handle the relay from shortstop Chris Gomez.

Graffanino scored on the throwing error to make it 7-4, and the Braves eventually won 7-6.

"I probably hadn't slid since high school," Rocker said. "That was fun."

Smoltz satisfied

Despite allowing nine hits and four runs in 6 2-3 innings, Atlanta's John Smoltz, the winningest pitcher in postseason history, said his performance was as good as any in his career.

"I was as prepared as I've ever been, I felt as dominating as I've ever been," said Smoltz, who walked one and struck out eight but allowed two-run homers to Ken Caminiti in the first and John Vander Wal in the sixth.

"I can't explain how they got those [homers]," Smoltz said. "I did not make mistakes. Caminiti and Vander Wal hit two incredible pitches that resulted in four runs. Sometimes, the results don't always reflect your performance."

Smoltz has an 11-3 record in 23 postseason starts.

Vaughn returns to action

San Diego's Greg Vaughn, who sustained a strained left quadriceps in Game 1, struck out on three pitches against Greg Maddux as a pinch-hitter in the ninth in his first action since being injured.

Manager Bruce Bochy indicated before Game 5 that Vaughn, who had 50 homers and 119 RBIs this season, would probably start in Game 6 if there is one.

The Braves made sure there will be one by beating the Padres 7-6.

Guillen comes through

Atlanta shortstop Ozzie Guillen got his chance to play in the NL championship series in a roundabout way because of Walt Weiss' aggressive base running.

Weiss slammed into San Diego catcher Jim Leyritz in Game 3 and was left with a sore neck and shoulder -- and was still out as Leyritz held onto the ball.

Weiss could have played in Game 4, but Guillen got the call and responded with an RBI single in the seventh inning for the go-ahead run in Atlanta's 8-3 victory.

Braves manager Bobby Cox also had a hunch that Guillen might give the team a spark in Game 5, and he was right -- Guillen went 3-for-5.

"I played 14 years in the big leagues and didn't have a chance to play in the postseason, and I think [Cox] put me in to give me a chance to be in one," Guillen said.

Glavine will tie record

Atlanta's John Smoltz set a league championship series record by making his 12th career start Monday night. Because the Braves won, the record won't last long.

That's because teammate Tom Glavine will make the 12th league championship series start of his career in Game 6 Wednesday night, opposing either Kevin Brown or Sterling Hitchcock.

Rare error

When Gomez committed a throwing error trying to nail Rocker at home in the eighth inning Monday night, it was the first San Diego miscue in the series.

It was also the first by the Padres in 83 innings of NLCS play dating back to the sixth inning of Game 1 in 1984 against the Chicago Cubs.


Related information
Brown can't save Padres this time
SI's Jeff Pearlman on the NLCS: Bochy is blowing this call
Braves turn to Cy Young trio to rebound
Postseason Schedule
Braves-Padres Game 5 Box Score
Braves-Padres Game 5 Scoring Summary
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