Work in Sports
ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- The St. Louis Cardinals dealt the Atlanta Braves a body blow with an early knockout of Greg Maddux in Game One of their National League Division Series. Today, St. Louis sent the defending NL champions staggering to the ropes.
The Cardinals ambushed Tom Glavine, another vaunted member of the Braves' rotation, and coasted to a 10-4 rout that moved them within one win of an unlikely three-game sweep.
Mark McGwire put the finishing touches on the romp by blasting a pinch homer over the center-field fence off Mike Remlinger in the bottom of the eighth inning.
"I'm having a great time watching this team play," said McGwire, who has been limited to pinch-hitting duty due to tendinitis in his right knee. "This is a good team. I'm just happy to be part of it as a pinch hitter."
It was McGwire's first postseason homer since 1992 as a member of the Oakland Athletics. Limited to pinch-hitting duty by a knee injury, he received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd at Busch Stadium and came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
After Maddux was pounded for seven runs in four innings in a 7-5 loss Tuesday, Atlanta looked for the equalizer behind Glavine, who tossed 14 scoreless innings in his final two regular-season games to reach 20 wins for the fifth time.
But Glavine (0-1) was even less impressive than Maddux, getting pounded for seven runs and six hits in just 2 1/3 innings. It was the first loss for Glavine in six career division series starts.
"We're showing right now that we can play good baseball and we can beat teams that think they're going to beat us," said St. Louis center fielder Jim Edmonds, who set a division series record with three doubles.
Maddux and Glavine are Cy Young Award candidates who combined for 40 wins during the season. In two starts in this series, they have yielded 14 runs and 15 hits over 6 2/3 innings for a 17.50 ERA.
"It's hard to explain," Glavine said. "I felt like I had decent stuff but I didn't get ahead in the count enough. It seems like when I did, I made a bad pitch. I didn't get away with it. When you don't get away with your mistakes, it's not going to be a very good game."
Today's start was the shortest for Glavine in the postseason since he surrendered six runs and seven hits in just one inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game Six of the 1992 National League Championship Series.
"The only thing I can think of is he got a lot of balls in bad areas," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said of Glavine's performance. "I have seen Tommy give up runs in the first inning before and put up goose eggs the rest of the way. We kept waiting for that to happen. It just wasn't there today."
Will Clark got St. Louis off and running with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first that erased a 2-0 deficit and the Cardinals never looked back.
"To be able, with one swing of the bat, to get the fans back in the game, I think that meant a lot to the ballclub," Clark said.
The surprising turn of events has the Braves in danger of losing a division series for the first time since the extra round of playoffs was introduced in 1995. Atlanta came into the playoffs with a 15-2 record in the division series.
However, the Braves have been in this position before. In the 1996 NLCS, they trailed St. Louis 3-1 before outscoring the Cardinals, 32-1, in the final three games of the series.
Game Three is Saturday afternoon in Atlanta and Cox is not ready to push the panic button.
"We have the pitching to win three straight," he said. "We had it then (in 1996) and we still have it now."
Darryl Kile (1-0), who reached 20 wins for the first time in his career, was the benificiary of the Cardinals' outburst and recorded his first postseason victory.
He settled down after spotting the Braves a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, allowing two runs and four hits over seven innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
"I just wasn't executing pitches where I wanted to very often and they hit them," Kile said. "The guys came right back and filled in that hole I dug for us and we took the lead again."
"He overcame that first inning," Clark said. "When we needed him to step up, he did. He went out there, turned the corner and kept on cruising."
Ironically, Kile suffered a 2-1 loss to Maddux in Game One of the 1997 NLDS as a member of the Houston Astros in his only previous playoff appearance. He surrendered just two runs and seven hits over seven frames.
He was almost as sharp today, yielding just two hits after throwing 25 pitches in the opening inning.
"(Kile) was very effective," Atlanta left fielder Reggie Sanders said. "His curveball was literally dropping and he was spotting his fastball in and out. He settled down. It also helped when the first baseman (Clark) hits a three-run home run."
The Braves showed some life in the first as rookie Rafael Furcal led off with a walk and scored one out later on Chipper Jones' RBI single to left field. Jones moved to third on Galarraga's double and scored on Jordan's groundout.
But the Cardinals came right back in the home first as Fernando Vina led off with a single and Jim Edmonds drew a one-out walk. Clark gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead by hammering a 3-2 pitch from Glavine over the fence in right-center field.
"He went down and got a pitch and beat me," Glavine said. "That's a pitch, outer half of the plate, down. You expect to get an out a lot of times. Sometimes, you just have to give the hitters a little bit of credit."
It was Clark's first postseason homer since 1989, when he almost singlehandedly carried the San Francisco Giants to a five-game NLCS victory over the Chicago Cubs by batting .650. However, "The Thrill" was hitting just .111 (3-for-27) in seven division series games heading into this year's playoffs.
"I went from 13 (games) back to first place," said Clark, alluding to his midseason trade from the Baltimore Orioles. "(Cardinals GM) Walt (Jocketty) came and got me and I'm glad to be here. It was a definite boost."
Carlos Hernandez led off the second with his first career postseason homer before the Cardinals broke it open with three runs in the third. Eric Davis delivered a sacrifice fly and Ray Lankford chased Glavine with a two-run double, making it 7-2.
"When you face Atlanta, you know you will face outstanding starting pitching," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Both days our offense cranked early before they got into the game."
Edmonds added RBI doubles in the fourth and sixth innings and is 6-for-9 in the series with a homer, four RBI and four runs scored.
"I'm just tryng to do my job," he said. "I'm getting a chance to swing away and get some hits. I think that's the way I'm going to keep it right now."
McGwire juiced an already excited crowd with his 412-foot shot in the eighth.