ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Curt Schilling did not give the Atlanta Braves anything. The Arizona Diamondbacks were more than willing to accept a few gifts.
Schilling continued his postseason brilliance with a four-hitter and Braves catcher Javy Lopez committed a costly error that allowed a pair of runs to score as the Diamondbacks posted a 5-1 triumph in Game Three of the National League Championship Series.
The road victory gave Arizona a two games to one lead in the series. The Diamondbacks also have won four straight games at Turner Field, where the next two games will be played.
Schilling (3-0) allowed two singles, two doubles and two walks. He struck out 12, including four of the final six batters.
"I don't know what else you can say at this point," Arizona manager Bob brenly said. "The cream rises to the top. I mean, whatever cliche you want to throw on it, we've talked about it throughout the postseason. When the light seems to be shining the brightest, when people expect the most from him, when we expect the most from him, he goes out there and exceeds even what we expected."
"The key for me was going to be to relax, because I felt like I had real good stuff," Schilling said. "I thought I had all my pitches, and I felt real comfortable with my game plan and knew what I wanted to do. It was just a matter of not getting caught up in it and taking a breath every now and then and thinking through situations when you get into binds, not rushing the important pitches."
The 34-year-old righthander has won all three of his postseason starts, allowing two runs and 13 hits in 27 innings. More important, he improved to 16-1 this season following an Arizona loss.
"I've never thrown better in more important games than I have the last three or four games," Schilling said. "I think that's pretty obvious based on where we're at and what we're doing as a team right now."
"Schilling has been our savior all year," Arizona left fielder Luis Gonzalez said. "He's been money all year. He wants the ball. He's been phenomenal. We feel pretty good about our chances with him on the mound. He's on a roll. He's human but right now he is superman for us. He steps it up to the next level -- he loves the spotlight."
With the way Schilling was pitching and Arizona already ahead 2-1, Atlanta could ill afford a sloppy inning. But that is exactly what the Braves endured in the fifth.
Atlanta starter John Burkett (1-1) surrendered a leadoff single to Schilling and Tony Womack bunted in front of the plate. Rookie second baseman Marcus Giles failed to cover first and Arizona was set up for a big inning.
Craig Counsell, who had three hits, sacrificed and Gonzalez was intentionally walked. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox opted for Steve Reed and he got exactly what his team needed -- a chopper to third base. But Lopez missed Chipper Jones' catchable throw to the plate, allowing Schilling and Womack to score for a 4-1 lead.
"The play happened so fast I didn't have time to think about it," Lopez said. "I was trying to catch the ball and get out of the way of the runner. Unfortunately, I was concentrating more on the runner than on the ball. I screwed up again."
"I think a lot of it had to do with me," Burkett said. "They (Schilling's hit and the botched bunt) were my fault. I fielded (the bunt) and probably should have gone to second base. When I looked I didn't think I had a chance. The whole key to the game is me getting Schilling out to open that inning."
After batting .421 in the Division Series, Finley was just 1-for-6 in the first two games of the series. In addition to his RBI single in the fifth, he had a two-run double in the third.
"We've all faced Maddux enough," Finley said. "I mean, he's not going to change his plan. We know what he's trying to do. Usually he can just do what he wants to do and that's good enough. ... I don't think there's any surprises. He's not going to change his approach to pitching (Saturday) by any means."
Arizona threatened in the first as Counsell singled with one out and took third on Matt Williams' two-out double. Burkett retired Finley on a flyout to right.
The Diamondbacks broke on top in the third. Counsell beat out a grounder to first that Julio Franco was slow to field. One out later, Williams walked and Finley made it 2-0 with a sharp double to left.
Schilling struck out the side in the third but Atlanta closed to 2-1 in the fourth. Giles opened with a double and scored one out later on a single up the middle by Jones. Any chance the Braves had of tying the contest quickly evaporated when Brian Jordan bounced into an inning-ending double play.
With Atlanta trailing 5-1 in the sixth, Giles walked with two outs and Franco followed with a single to right. But Schilling struck out Jones on four pitches.
Jordan opened the seventh with a double and Lopez drew a two-out walk. Cox opted for pinch hitter Dave Martinez, who struck out to drop to 6-for-28 in his career against Schilling.
"I thought he was on the awesome side," Cox said. "I thought he pitched great. He's so much better now than he was with the Phillies, to me. He's a better pitcher."
When Schilling slammed the door over the final two innings, Atlanta was left to reflect on its mental and physical miscues.
"Collectively we didn't execute as a team," Giles said. "It wasn't one guy, it wasn't one play. When Schilling is out there, you can't make mistakes."
"This guy is dominant," Jordan said. "You can't give him a four-run lead. You can't make mistakes and expect to beat Schilling."