Rocker escapes jam as Millwood picks up win
Posted: Wednesday October 13, 1999 10:29 PM
After going all season without a homer at Turner Field, Eddie Perez has exploded for two homers in the NLCS. AP
ATLANTA (AP) -- For Eddie Perez, John Smoltz and the Atlanta
Braves, it all came down to timing. Bobby Valentine just wishes his
had been a little better for the New York Mets.
Perez reprised his role as the unlikely hero, teaming with Brian
Jordan to hit two-run homers in the sixth inning off struggling
Kenny Rogers as the Braves beat New York 4-3 Wednesday for a 2-0
lead in the NL Championship Series.
Valentine threw his hat and kicked the air when Perez connected
two batters after Jordan's homer. Following the game, the manager
kicked himself for sticking with Rogers.
"I had no reason to keep him in," Valentine admitted. "I left
him in and it was absolutely the wrong move."
Agreed Rogers: "I thought they might take me out. I wish he
Instead, with Turk Wendell ready in the bullpen, Rogers faced
Perez, who homered on the first pitch.
"That's what surprised me, that he was there still pitching,"
Showing how serious he was, Braves manager Bobby Cox then
brought in Smoltz for the first relief appearance of a major league
career that began in 1988. The Game 4 starter pitched a perfect
ninth for a save, striking out pinch-hitter Bobby Bonilla to end
"I just wanted to throw strikes,"
Smoltz said. "Today I felt
pretty good so I said I'd be good for one inning."
Cox thought so.
"We may not do that again the rest of the playoffs," he said.
"But I think when you have the opportunity to win, you better grab
a hold of it."
Now, after its 11th loss in 14 meetings with Atlanta, New York
returns to sold-out Shea Stadium for Game 3 Friday night. Al
Leiter, a savior all year for the Mets in tight spots, starts
against Tom Glavine.
Perez, who took over full time after All-Star catcher Javy Lopez
was lost for the year to a knee problem in late July, had not
homered at Turner Field this season until connecting Tuesday night
in a 4-2 victory in the opener.
Lopez got a big cheer when he threw out the ceremonial first
ball before Game 2, yet it was Perez who had the crowd of 44,624
chanting "Ed-die! Ed-die!" after he delivered again.
"That's the easiest name for them to say," Perez said. "Next
year they're going to forget about me because Javy will be playing
The lightning strike ruined an afternoon for the Mets in which
most everything seemed to be going their way but instead gave Kevin
Millwood his second victory of the postseason.
Edgardo Alfonzo finished Millwood with an RBI double in the
eighth. John Rocker protected the lead by striking out John Olerud
-- who threw his bat flailing away -- and, after intentionally
walking Mike Piazza, fanning Robin Ventura.
That was it for Rocker, who got four outs for a save in Game 1,
and Smoltz came on.
Rogers pitched in and out of trouble until the sixth, when he
walked Chipper Jones with one out and Jordan sliced a drive off the
right-field foul screen to tie it 2-2.
Andruw Jones followed with a single and, with the smoke from the
fireworks set off after Jordan's shot still drifting across the
field, Perez launched a drive into the left-field seats. Valentine
tossed his cap and kicked the air as Perez circled the bases.
And in a sign of exactly how badly the inning went for the Mets,
second baseman Alfonzo let Walt Weiss' two-out grounder bounce
through his legs. It was the first fielding error Alfonzo made on a
ground ball this year.
Up to that point, it had been a good day for New York. It even
had its own surprise star -- Melvin Mora hit his first major league
homer after replacing the ill Rickey Henderson midgame.
Millwood, who pitched a one-hitter in the first round against
Houston, gave up an RBI single in the second to Roger Cedeno.
Mora entered in left field in the bottom half of the inning when
Henderson was forced to leave because of nausea and a light head.
In an unusual sight, Mora was throwing in the dugout to get loose
before getting the call.
Mora homered in the fifth for a 2-0 lead. A late-season spark
for the Mets, Mora had come a long way since starting the 1998
season playing in Taiwan.
The Mets' big hitters, however, did little. Piazza, Olerud and
Ventura combined to go 0-for-10, leaving them 1-for-21 in the
The Braves got a runner on in every inning against Rogers, but
many of them didn't last long on the bases. Leadoff man Gerald
Williams hit a single in the first and was quickly picked off -- he
asked first-base umpire Charlie Reliford about Rogers' move -- and
grounded into 6-4-3 double plays in his next two at-bats.
Andruw Jones singled in the second and also was picked off. When
he singled again in the fourth, he took no chances. Instead, he
took a Little League-style lead -- keeping one foot on the bag until
Rogers released the ball, a tactic that prompted Alfonzo to kid him
after the inning ended.
"That was not good," Cox said. "We'll talk about that
Notes: Olerud is 0-for-9 lifetime against Rocker and Ventura is
0-for-5, striking out all five times. ... Rogers' last start at
Atlanta came in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series for the Yankees.
That was the game in which Jim Leyritz homered to swing the
momentum in New York's favor. ... Masato Yoshii, who started the
opener for the Mets and turned his left ankle, got treatment before
the game. He's expected to be OK to pitch again in the series, if
necessary. ... Batting practice was wiped out by rain. ... The
crowd was about 6,000 short of capacity.
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