Of course Cox's hope is that Maddux and the other starters pitch well enough so that it doesn't matter if Sonny Jackson is playing shortstop and Larvell Blanks is playing third. If Cox uses a fourth starter, he can pick between Neagle, who had a 5.59 ERA for Atlanta in six starts after a 3.05 mark with the Pittsburgh Pirates, or Avery, who had an injury-plagued season but prefers throwing in cool weather and has the postseason record to prove it (5-2, 2.88 ERA in 75 innings).
The Braves entered the Division Series against Los Angeles a rested, relaxed team. Says Glavine, "Last year at this time we were starting to wonder how many chances we were going to get to win a world championship, and if it doesn't happen, will we be sitting around 10 years from now retired with a big, empty feeling? This time it's more relaxing trying to repeat than trying to get that monkey off our backs."
That was never more apparent than last Saturday in Montreal as the Braves prepared for a meaningless game against the Expos. Although Atlanta would play the winner of a series between Los Angeles and the San Diego Padres, nobody bothered to tune in that game on any of the clubhouse televisions. Instead, all three sets carried college football, with Ohio State-Notre Dame drawing a particularly large crowd.
Later, when Glavine was asked about a preferred opponent, he shook his head and said, "No, it doesn't really matter who we play."
No other club could say that with the same conviction.