Posted: Saturday October 16, 1999 01:17 AM
FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) -- Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves remember the last time they won the first two games of a postseason series against a team from New York. This time, they are leaving little to chance.
Glavine pitched seven shutout innings and the Braves edged the New York Mets, 1-0, to take a commanding three games to none lead in the National League Championship Series.
In 1996, the Braves won the first two games of the World Series against the Yankees. In Game Three, the Yankees rallied to beat Glavine and took the series in six games.
With a superb effort from its two-time Cy Young Award winner, Atlanta avoided that fate tonight and can advance to its fifth World Series this decade with a win in Game Four on Saturday night.
No team in baseball history has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
"It was on my mind. I know there are strong similarities to tonight and the game in '96," Glavine said. "Every game in the series is so important. Based on what happened in '96, I knew this was a pivotal game."
After Mike Remlinger worked a perfect eighth, Shea Stadium villain John Rocker perfectly played the part with a scoreless ninth. After Benny Agbayani reached on an error, the animated lefthander struck out pinch-hitter Todd Pratt, got Melvin Mora on a deep fly to right-center field and Rey Ordonez on a weak force play.
Rocker exploded with emotion and catcher Eddie Perez even hesitated a second before offering congratulations.
"It was a relief of pressure I've been feeling, a lot of built-up tension," Rocker said. "I knew after I had opened my mouth that I had to back it up."
It was the second save of the series for Rocker, who saved five wins against New York this season and has wondered aloud how many times the Braves have to beat the Mets before their fans "shut up." They beat New York for the 21st time in the last 27 meetings.
The Mets wasted another brilliant effort by Al Leiter (0-1) and committed two errors in an inning for the first time this season, leading to the game's only run.
Glavine (1-0) followed his 1998 Cy Young season with a ho-hum 14-11 mark but came up with one of his best performances of the season at a most critical time. He scattered seven hits and one walk, striking out eight.
"The key for me was working ahead in the count," Glavine said.
"I was able to locate my pitches. And when I do that I have a chance to win a ballgame."
The lefthander made his 13th LCS start, breaking the record he shared with teammate and Game Four starter John Smoltz. He won for just the fourth time in 12 LCS decisions by improving to 4-0 in as many starts against the Mets this year.
Glavine surrendered six hits through the first five innings but worked out of trouble. He allowed a pair of two-out singles in the second before striking out Leiter. Ordonez grounded out with runners at first and third to end the fourth.
Leiter made one of New York's two errors in the top of the first as the Braves scored without a hit. Gerald Williams walked and Bret Boone hit a slow roller back to Leiter, who hesitated before pulling first baseman John Olerud off the bag with a high throw.
The Braves engineered a double steal and Williams trotted home when the throw by catcher Mike Piazza sailed into center field.
New York escaped further damage when center fielder Mora threw out Boone at the plate trying to score on a short fly by Brian Jordan.
"It didn't realize until now that it's the first time all year we had two (errors in an inning)," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "It's pretty amazing. Without that we could still be playing."
Boone tried to barrel over Piazza, who held on to the ball and suffered a mild concussion.
"It was a clean play," Boone said. "There was nothing I could do but try to barrel him over."
New York's normally solid defense nearly cost Leiter again in the second. Andruw Jones struck out but reached on a wild pitch.
Eddie Perez had an infield hit as shortstop Ordonez could not get the ball out of his glove in time. But Brian Hunter lined into a double play and Weiss struck out.
Again called upon in a game pivotal to the Mets' season, Leiter was sharp, yielding just the unearned run and three hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
"A loss is a loss, but games like this often are harder to take," Leiter said. "After that error, I felt I settled down.
Seven innings and three hits -- I'll take that for the rest of my career."
And while the infield was uncharacteristically shaky early, Leiter benefited from three outfield assists in the first five innings that kept the game close.
In addition to the play by Mora, left fielder Rickey Henderson threw out Chipper Jones and Perez trying to stretch leadoff singles into doubles in the fourth and fifth, respectively. He did not have an assist during the regular season.
"We got thrown out being aggressive tonight, but we scored by being aggressive," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Henderson, forced to leave Game Two early due to the flu, became the first outfielder with two assists in an LCS game since Bake McBride of Philadelphia in 1980.
Leiter stopped the Mets' two longest losing streaks during the regular season, including a seven-game skid in September that nearly derailed New York's playoff hopes. He beat the Braves 9-2 on September 29 to end that seven-game slide and tossed a two-hitter in a one-game playoff at Cincinnati five days later.
Leiter also pitched well into the eighth inning in a Division Series start against Arizona.
While the first two games of the series were played to less than capacity at Turner Field, a spirited crowd of 55,911 filled Shea and saved its loudest boos for Chipper Jones, who had been critical of Mets fans in recent weeks.
The crowd cheered wildly when Jones was easily thrown out by Henderson in the fourth and when he struck out twice.
Mora made just three starts in the regular season but was in the lineup as part of several changes made by Mets manager Bobby Valentine. Edgardo Alfonzo, the Mets' most consistent postseason hitter, was moved one spot down to third in the lineup, with John Olerud batting second.
Olerud was 1-for-3 while Alfonzo was hitless in four at-bats.
Mora and Piazza each had two of the Mets' seven hits.
"We've looked at some bleak situations before. We just have to come out ready to play tomorrow," Olerud said.
Mora earned the start by homering Wednesday and throwing out a runner at the plate last Saturday against Arizona in the Division Series.
The game was delayed for about five minutes in the bottom of the sixth when a temporary wall down the right-field line collapsed as fans leaned against it trying to grab a foul ball.