"Just because you get into this situation doesn't mean you have to change anything," Mazzone told them. "Go back to establishing your fastball. Throw strikes with it. I want to see a two-to-one ratio of strikes to balls."
Over the next three days Avery, Maddux and Glavine threw a combined 202 strikes and 111 balls while each beat the Rockies, who never once got a lead. Atlanta completed a once-a-century season sweep, winning the series with Colorado 13-0 while outscoring the Rockies 106-50. It was the first time since 1899 that a National League team swept a season series from an opponent.
Avery started the final weekend with eight strong innings in a 7-4 win Friday night, after which he defended his pitching mates by declaring, "We're still the best around." He then rushed home to watch the Giants, who kept pace with an 8-7 win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Not all the Braves tuned in, however.
"I can't remember the last time I sat through a game on TV," said centerfielder Otis Nixon, who spent the rest of the evening reviewing inventory reports for Ozone, his high-tech gadget store in Alpharetta, Ga. "Otis is a businessman." McGriff said. "He's always sitting in front of his locker working with numbers or making calls." McGriff is one of many Braves who have purchased cellular phones from Nixon. On some nights before games, you would think the Braves were running a telethon or a crisis hot line, what with all the phones jingling inside lockers.
Maddux got the call on Saturday and answered with seven innings so dominating that he went to three balls on only two of the 26 batters he faced. Glavine, who was charting pitches off the clubhouse television, was so bored that he occasionally changed the channel to Notre Dame football. The Braves rolled 10-1, dispatching the Rockies quickly enough to catch the final two innings of the Giants game, though the inconsequential Deion Sanders, who had just 14 at bats in September, had no interest in sticking around with his teammates to see if they would clinch a tie for the division title.
San Francisco hung on to win 5-3, after the Dodgers' Dave Hansen hit a fly ball that fell about five feet short of a grand slam in the eighth, prompting a loud groan in the Atlanta clubhouse.
The Braves went home to pack. If the race remained tied for another day, they would have to fly to San Francisco on Sunday night to meet the Giants in a one-game playoff on Monday night, all because three weeks ago Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz called "heads" in a coin flip to decide where that game would be played. It came up tails. "Somebody said I had bad advance scouting," he said. So on Sunday the Braves arrived at the stadium with their suitcases, though many of them left their luggage in the trunks of their cars, hoping that the extra change of clothes would not be needed.
"I probably didn't pack too well," second baseman Mark Lemke said. "I wasn't thinking too well, not when in the back of my mind I really don't want to go. It's been rough the last couple weeks. Killer."
The Braves beat the Rockies again, 5-3, only to deposit themselves in front of the clubhouse TV again. Atlanta management then announced to the 48,904 fans in attendance that they were welcome to stay and watch the Giant-Dodger game, which was being carried by ESPN, on the stadium scoreboard. About 8,000 people took the Braves up on the offer.
Exactly three years earlier Atlanta had drawn only 7,881 people to its final game of the season. Now a bigger crowd than that was on hand to watch a game on television, which made for a surreal sight: virtual-reality baseball. With an empty field stretched before them, the Atlanta fans sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh-inning stretch of the Giant game, and they roared in approval when the scoreboard identified Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda as OUR PAL.