Then the game resumed and the scoring stopped, innings falling away like autumn leaves.
Autumn leaves: A red maple leaf on a flag high above the bleachers served as an unnecessary reminder that major league baseball belongs to Canada, too. Unnecessary, for was there anyone who didn't know that the Toronto Blue Jays had won the American League pennant earlier in the day, beating the Oakland A's 9-2 to wrap up their series in six games? It was a joyous V-Jay Day in Canada (page 40), and now the world and World Series awaited the National League winner, which was beginning to look a lot like Pittsburgh.
Trying to change his team's luck, Smoltz played musical chairs in the clubhouse. There he watched the game on TV from several seats, having been lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning—the inning when Pittsburgh scored a run to take a 2-0 lead and Atlanta failed to score after loading the bases with nobody out. And if the home team couldn't score then, how could it ever win?
"This is it, folks."
Skip Caray leads off the last of the ninth with those words over Atlanta radio station WGST. Gary Glitter plays on the public address, rally caps are worn backward on the Brave bench, and the Goodyear blimp hovers above home plate with its electronic message board reading, inanely, #1 IN TIRES.
Terry Pendleton doubles two feet fair to the corner in right, then Dave Justice hits a ball at second baseman Lind, who had six errors all season but now boots a simple grounder: Though Lind stops the ball from going through, he can't make a play on Justice. Sid Bream then walks on four pitches—Marsh's strike zone seeming to shrink with each batter—and the bases are juiced and nobody's out, and that's all for Pirate starter Doug Drabek.
Cabrera is jumping up and down so hard in the dugout that he bangs his head on the concrete ceiling. Up comes Ron Gant against Pittsburgh reliever Stan Belinda, and he hits a bolt to leftfield that Barry Bonds catches in front of the 330 sign. Pendleton scores from third.
First and second, one out, the Braves now trailing by a run, and catcher Damon Berryhill walks to load the bases again. The 3-1 pitch looked like a strike, but Marsh can't quite get his right arm up this inning. As pinch hitter Brian Hunter strides to the plate, Atlanta batting coach Clarence Jones informs Cabrera that he will hit next—if the game isn't over by then. Pendleton doesn't know why, but he helpfully tells Cabrera anyway, "Hit the ball over the shortstop."
Hunter flies out to Lind. Cabrera steps in. His father, Pablo, is watching in the Dominican. Finally settled into trainer Dave Pursley's chair, Smoltz is watching in the clubhouse.
Belinda delivers. "First pitch," says Cabrera, "is slider." It misses.