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What a Week!
Tom Verducci, Tim Kurkjian, Gerry Callahan
September 30, 1996
Seven days in September were filled with feats on the field and pennant fever from coast to coast, just like in the old days
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September 30, 1996

What A Week!

Seven days in September were filled with feats on the field and pennant fever from coast to coast, just like in the old days

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When they finally got around to playing ball—Baltimore, which had won eight of its previous 10 games, began Wednesday three games behind first-place New York, which had won seven of its last 10—the Orioles and the Yankees staged a brilliant game. New York, two outs from a 2-1 defeat, rallied for a tie in the ninth and a victory in the 10th. Afterward, Baltimore reliever Randy Myers ripped his manager, Davey Johnson, for pulling him after he opened the ninth with two walks. "When you're the closer with a one-run lead, your job is to get three outs," Myers said. "I wasn't given the chance."

The Yankees then pounded a lethargic Mussina in the opener of the doubleheader on Thursday for a 9-3 win, leaving the Orioles more worried about winning the wild-card berth than the division title. Baltimore, which had already broken the record for most home runs in a season, is a powerful but ill-balanced club that goes station-to-station slower than the Toonerville Trolley. When the Orioles rallied from a 6-1 deficit against Cone to win the finale, it was only the 15th time this season they won without hitting a home run. And who was the last of the game's 11 pitchers? Myers, of course.

His squawk over the balk aside, Steinbrenner took the defeat surprisingly well. The forecast, he figured, sounded better. "They came in looking to go out even, and they're leaving four games back," he said of the Orioles. "In my opinion, that's good." Steinbrenner would keep that sunny outlook at least through Sunday, at which point the Yanks were still up by four.

Glavine shut the door on the Expos, setting up a fifth Braves title in six years

The defending world champion Atlanta Braves, who had won four division titles in the last five years, were looking uncharacteristically vulnerable in the final weeks of the season. A 12½-game lead over the Montreal Expos on Aug. 30 had been cut to 4½ on Sept. 14, and the gritty Expos were still just five games out after defeating the Braves 5-1 in the opener of a four-game series last Thursday night at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The Atlanta bullpen was exhausted, third baseman Terry Pendleton was showing his age (36), and rookie outfielder Andruw Jones often appeared overmatched by major league pitching.

If the Braves didn't stop the Expos fast, they faced the prospect of perhaps having to win the National League East in the final three games of the season at Montreal. But fortunately for Atlanta, its starter on Friday night was lefthander Tom Glavine, who hadn't lost to the Expos since Aug. 25, 1992. He threw eight strong innings, yielding just five hits, in winning his eighth straight against Montreal. Closer Mark Wohlers worked the ninth and picked up his 37th save in a 3-2 victory that gave the Braves the breathing room they needed with nine games to play.

"It was important to not let [the Expos] continue to feel they can catch us," Glavine (15-9), who was the World Series MVP and had a 1.61 ERA in four postseason appearances last year, said after his timely victory. "The more you hang around, the more you believe you can catch a team. It's best to get this thing over with."

The Braves won in a way that was reminiscent of last year's championship season: terrific starting pitching, just enough hitting and Wohlers finishing up. Leftfielder Ryan Klesko hit his 34th homer in the second and catcher Javier Lopez's slow roller scored another run in the fourth. But the Expos tied the game on first baseman David Segui's two-run single in the fifth. Atlanta first baseman Fred McGriff opened the eighth with a double and scored on Lopez's two-out single to center.

On came Wohlers, who the night before had pitched to three batters in the ninth and retired none. But his 90-plus-mph fastball was humming, and he struck out two of the four batters he faced in his 73rd appearance of the season—more than Lee Smith or Dennis Eckersley, the alltime save leaders, has ever had in one year.

"This win eased the pressure on us," said Klesko, who homered for only the second time in 3½ weeks. "Realistically, Montreal needed a sweep, and that's not going to happen."

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