Tucker continues success against Padres' Brown
Posted: Tuesday October 13, 1998 02:06 AM
It was the biggest of many big plays that kept the Braves alive in the NL championship series.
Tucker's three-run homer with one out in the eighth off the San Diego ace, who was making a rare relief appearance, put Atlanta ahead to stay, and the Braves went on to beat the Padres 7-6 in Game 5.
Thus, the Padres take a 3-2 lead to Atlanta for Game 6 on Wednesday.
"He did it at the right time," Braves cleanup hitter Andres Galarraga said of Tucker. "In that situation, with Kevin Brown throwing, that's something special for him and for the team."
The Atlanta bench exploded as Tucker's drive to right went into the seats, putting the Braves on top 5-4.
"It was a huge lift," teammate Andruw Jones said. "The feeling was like, 'Wow.' "
Tucker, a left-handed hitter, had just 29 hits in his final 156 at-bats of the season, a .186 average. He hit only two homers after the All-Star break.
He hit .277 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs before the break and finished with a .244 average, 13 homers and 46 RBIs.
Tucker had just two hits in seven at-bats and no RBIs with four strikeouts in the first four games of the NLCS, and didn't start Game 3 against left-hander Sterling Hitchcock.
"With Kevin Brown out there, I was fortunate enough to do that," said Tucker, who is 7-for-15 against the Padres ace in his career. "You want to make him get his pitches up.
"I think it was a little sinker, he got it over the plate a little too much. I guess tonight was my night. I got a pitch I can drive and I didn't miss it."
Tucker, booed when he came to the plate in the top of the ninth by the Qualcomm Stadium crowd of 58,988, hit a full-count pitch into the right-field seats to breathe life into the Braves.
Tucker also had RBI singles off Padres starter Andy Ashby in the fourth and sixth innings to drive in the first two Atlanta runs.
As it turned out, those runs decided the game, because pinch hitter Greg Myers hit a two-run homer in the ninth.
"Even when I was on deck, I was nervous," Graffanino said. "I just got a pitch I was able to drive.
"This was unbelievably wild."
So the Braves, held to three runs on 19 hits in the first three NLCS games, have scored 15 runs on 26 hits in the last two -- both comeback victories.
No major league team has ever accomplished what the Braves must do to reach their fifth World Series since 1991 -- rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series.
Maddux, making his first relief appearance since 1987, got the final three outs in this game after Kerry Ligtenberg gave up the homer to Myers.
"I think it's the first time I've ever pitched in relief where it actually counted," he said. "I was like a fish out of water. I didn't know what to do, how to act. It was weird, it was like pitching on adrenalin. I think I pitched the same way I usually do."
San Diego is the 22nd team in postseason history to take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-7 series. Of the previous 21, there were 18 sweeps. On the other three occasions, the series ended in five games.
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