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Snakebit

Knoblauch's 315-foot homer changes tone of Series

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Posted: Wednesday October 27, 1999 03:01 AM

By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated

Forty-five minutes after Game 3 ended, after most of the notebook and camera-toting hordes had cleared out of the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, Braves reliever Mike Remlinger sat by himself in front of his locker, looking dazed.

It would have been appropriate if every one of his teammates wore the same countenance.

Most of the Braves spoke of the bad luck that struck them in Game 3: Jose Hernandez's first-inning rocket with two runners on that was grabbed by Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter for an inning-ending groundout, and Chuck Knoblauch's 315-foot two-run homer that bounced off right fielder Brian Jordan's glove and completed a four-run New York comeback that tied the game at 5 in the eighth inning.

But in reality, the Braves' misfortune lies simply in having had to face the Yankees, who on Wednesday will try to become the first team since the 1938-39 Yankees to pull off World Series sweeps in consecutive years.

"We're confident because we beat them two out of three up here in July," said Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones. "But granted, that's not October. It seems now like they have that aura about them, that confidence, that no matter how far down they get they're never out of the game."

Probably because the Braves have been unable to hold a lead in this series. Greg Maddux took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning in Game 1; the Yankees won, 4-1. In Game 3, Atlanta jumped out 5-1 after four innings. "We scored five runs," said starter Tom Glavine, who returned from the stomach flu that forced him to miss Game 1 and got more support in the first inning (four runs, seven hits) than the Braves gave their staff in the first two games combined. "Normally that should be enough to win."

It wasn't enough because the Yankees chipped away at a mystified Glavine.

"I can honestly say I made one mistake tonight," he said, referring to the hanging slider that Tino Martinez crushed for a solo homer in the seventh inning. "I felt fine. A pop fly to right field went out. Anywhere else it's an out, but here it's a two-run homer."

Given that Glavine was ill two days ago, and that manager Bobby Cox had said before the game that he was looking for "seven good innings" out of his lefthander, it was surprising that Glavine was even around in the eighth to surrender Knoblauch's cheapie.

After the seventh, a weary-looking Glavine had a dugout conference with Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Relievers Remlinger and Russ Springer had been throwing in the bullpen for a half-inning.

"He told us he felt fine, and with his low pitch count [72 through seven] and the way he was throwing I really thought he'd go nine," said Mazzone. "He was pitching an awesome ballgame. Knoblauch just got the right part of the ballpark."

Until Game 4 starts, the Braves will try to convince themselves that, had luck gone their way, they would have won Tuesday night and would be right back in this series.

The fact remains that Atlanta combined quality pitching with a decent offensive attack for the first time in the 1999 World Series. Maybe that's why Chipper Jones, when he wasn't bemoaning the Braves' bad luck, spoke as if he were already looking back on his postseason experience. "I can't believe that ball by Knoblauch went out of the ballpark," Jones said. "But as frustrating as this loss is, this atmosphere and the whole World Series thing is pretty fun to be a part of."

After Game 4, "is" could well turn to "was."


 
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