Braves falter badly with runners in scoring position
Posted: Monday October 18, 1999 02:05 AM
Keith Lockhart (7) and the Braves had trouble getting to home plate with Mike Piazza guarding the front door. AP
NEW YORK (AP) -- For the Atlanta Braves, Sunday's Game 5 of the National League Championship Series was a frustrating string of missed opportunities, 15 innings of aggravation.
They loaded the bases in consecutive innings, both times without benefit of a base hit, and failed to score each time.
They left a record 19 runners on base -- and that doesn't include the one they had thrown out at the plate in the 13th inning.
They took the lead in the top half of the 15th and, needing just three outs to reach the World Series, they promptly lost to the New York Mets 4-3 on a grand slam that turned into a single.
"Baseball is a crazy game," sighed Walt Weiss, who thought he had scored the pennant-winning run in the top of the 15th.
"Just crazy," said Keith Lockhart, who thought he had driven it in with a 15th-inning triple that put Atlanta in front after 10 frustrating innings without a run. "You play the game. You go out and try to score. We finally got one for us. The mood was great. The momentum was great. You think, 'Just get the first guy."
The first guy was Shawon Dunston, who fought off pitch after pitch from Kevin McGlinchy before finally getting a single to start the winning rally.
Everything went downhill from there for the Braves.
McGlinchy eventually forced in the tying run on a bases-loaded walk to Todd Pratt and then Robin Ventura hit a ball over the wall to win the game. He never made it around the bases and was credited with a game-winning RBI single.
McGlinchy welcomed the challenge and opportunity to close the game out. The fact is, he was the last Braves pitcher available except for starters Kevin Millwood, who will pitch Game 6 on Tuesday, John Smoltz, who pitched Saturday and Tom Glavine, who pitched Friday.
"Anybody wants the ball with the game on the line," the rookie said. "I wanted to get guys out. I had to come in to Ventura because I was behind in the count. It's one of those things. You have to forget it. Baseball is a crazy game. This was a crazy game."
Manager Bobby Cox gave credit to the resiliency of the Mets, who went from the first inning to the 15th without scoring, but still found a way to win.
"Any team, you know, you give them a chance to win," he said. "Nobody is going to give up once you've gotten this far. Nobody is. Every team should be that way.
"We missed way too many opportunities tonight. We should have scored many more runs. We had a few more chances than they did. It's not an easy way to lose a ballgame, the way we lost it."
Even in the inning when the Braves scored their first two runs, they came away with less than they might have.
The bases-loaded situations might have been turning points if Atlanta had not wasted so many other chances. Perhaps the most painful came in the 13th inning when Lockhart singled with two out and tried to score from first on Chipper Jones' double. He was thrown out by at least 10 feet.
Batting just .198 in the first four games of the series, the Braves had one brief breakthrough, stringing consecutive doubles by Bret Boone and Jones and a single by Brian Jordan to tie the score 2-2 in the fourth.
When Ryan Klesko walked, there were two on and no outs. But Orel Hershiser came out of the Mets bullpen to strike out Andruw Jones and Eddie Perez, and get Weiss on a roller to first base.
Atlanta's best chances came in the sixth and seventh, even though they never got a hit in either inning. Both times they loaded the bases. Both times they came away with nothing.
In the sixth, with pitcher Greg Maddux at bat, Cox put on the squeeze, despite a two-strike count. Maddux missed the bunt for strike three and Ryan Klesko had no chance coming down the line from third and was tagged out to end the inning.
"The ball was right down the middle," Cox said. "He's never missed one of those. I don't know what happened. He didn't either. We would have been home about 31/2 hours ago if we got that down. But we missed it."
An inning later, the Braves were back, knocking on the door again, and again they were turned away, this time when reliever Pat Mahomes got Andruw Jones on a fly ball, ending the threat.
It was like that all night for Atlanta. Finally, in the 15th, a triple by Lockhart drove in Weiss with the go-ahead run. But the Mets weren't done.
When Ventura delivered the winning hit, the Braves ran out of chances and now they won't get anymore until Tuesday when the series returns to Atlanta for Game 6.
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