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It's lonely at the top

Braves' failures begin at the top of the lineup

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Posted: Monday October 25, 1999 09:40 PM

By John Donovan, CNN/SI

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ATLANTA -- Gerald Williams measured his words carefully. He was patient with his questioners. He never once lashed out wildly.

Ah, if only the Atlanta Braves' leadoff man were hitting that way.

Like most of Atlanta's hitters in this going-bad-quickly World Series, Williams is in an awful slump at just the wrong time. He is hitless in eight at-bats in the two games. He hasn't scored a run. He hasn't walked. He hasn't been on base at all.

He hasn't, simply put, done his job.

And that is just one of the reasons the Braves are down 2-0 to the New York Yankees.

"Obviously, we haven't played our brand of baseball," Williams said after Game 2. "It's more discouraging than frustrating. We know our capabilities, and we haven't played up to them yet."

No, the Braves have a sickly .121 batting average through the two games, with just seven hits. Only two of them -- Bret Boone's pinch-hit double in Game 2 and Chipper Jones' solo home run in Game 1 -- went for extra bases.

The top of the order, the ones who are supposed to set the table for the rest of the lineup, has been dog-ugly awful. First, you have Williams' 0-for-8. In Game 1, Bret Boone went 1-for-4 in the second spot. In Game 2, Ozzie Guillen was 0-for-4 from the No. 2 slot.

In two games, that makes 1-for-16. That's .063.

"We have to make sure the guys start to get on base for the big boys," Guillen said. "Get on base and not try to do too much."

Not that the big boys have done much, either. But the top of the order's problems in getting on base have affected the entire lineup.

"How do we turn it around?" hitting coach Don Baylor asked Sunday. "It has to start in the first inning. The three-and-out -- that's not putting any pressure on them. You keep looking down the line [for someone else to hit], you find yourself in the sixth, seventh inning with one hit on the board."

Baylor is undoubtedly putting the pressure to pull out of the spin on the top of the order, though Williams isn't necessarily buying that.

"I think every guy in the lineup has to get on," Williams said. "I don't think my job is any different."

Still, at the very least, Williams can start off the game by setting a god example. In Game 1, he struck out swinging. In Game 2, he grounded out.

He has, in all, been the first out of the inning in four of his eight at-bats.

"If you're not taking good approaches at the plate, it's tough to put a rally together," Baylor said. "I think guys start pressing, even at this level."

On to the off-day Day at a Glance, which asks the prophesy-seeking question: Will the Braves play again at Turner Field in this World Series?

The answer: You mean they've played there already?

Braves hitters
Who are they? Where are they? Are they ever coming back? Will it be too late when they finally do?
New York City
The Big Apple. The Capital of the Sporting World. The House That Ruth Built. The Bronx Bombers. Home, for the Yanks, sweet home.
The "S" word
Oh, yeah. The Yankees are thinking it. The Braves fear it. No one's talking about it, but four straight's on everybody's mind.
Up -- Pete Rose:
The fans gave him plenty of love Sunday night at Turner Field. And he gets the sympathy vote after that after-ceremony grilling by NBC.
Down -- The A-CT Ceremony:
Too much schmaltz, too long, too uncomfortable to watch. And haven't we seen it before?
Down -- The Braves:
Not a good way to prove yourselves as TTOTD, guys. Unless you're talking about the chokingest TOTD.
Down -- Bobby Cox:
Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Putting Ozzie Guillen at short certainly blew up in his face Sunday.
Down -- Gerald Williams:
We could pick a lot of guys to take the fall for the Braves. But the leadoff guy is supposed to set the tone. Williams: Oh-for-two games.
We may have seen the two best teams in baseball play in the ALCS.
Passionless. That's this World Series so far. What we need is a good argument -- at least.
Down 0-2 and heading into Yankee Stadium. Talk about burning Atlanta.
Pete Rose oughta know how to handle tough questions by now. Will he never learn?
Here's a look at the Game 3 starters
Andy Pettitte , Yankees. 14-11, 4.70 ERA in '99. 2-0, 1.84 ERA in '99 postseason, giving up 15 hits in 14 2/3 innings.
Tom Glavine , Braves. 14-11, 4.12 ERA in '99. 2-0 lifetime vs. Yankees with a 1.52 ERA in three starts.
A nice off day, a little leisurely BP, maybe a chance to wax that lucky bat. Or find them, if you're the Braves. And then, Tuesday night, back to it. But watch it: Blink and you may miss this Series.

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