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"I've sat and fantasized about how it would feel to get the game-winning hit in a World Series or league championship series," Batiste said. "Picturing it relaxes me. It gives me a good feeling. But I never thought it would happen." Batiste, 25, was carried off the field by teammates Danny Jackson and Milt Thompson. Williams, who watched the finish on TV in the clubhouse, said he would have run out and joined Jackson and Thompson—if only he'd been wearing pants.
The wholesome Braves, who won Games 2 and 3 by scoring 23 total runs, eat their postgame meals in the clubhouse at wooden picnic tables covered by checkered cloths. The undomesticated Phillies eat their postgame meals in poisoned-pork joints. These were the Atlanta Braves against the Philadelphia Philistines. This series was "America's Team against America's Most Wanted," as more than one Phillie described it.
But the bad guys weren't the only ones packing a gun, as Brave first baseman Fred (Crime Dog) McGriff demonstrated in Game 2. His first-inning, .38-caliber shot into the upper deck of the Vet provided the first two of a playoff-record 14 runs in the Braves' 14-3 win last Thursday night. "The game was over," conceded Phillie first baseman John Kruk, "when Crime Dog killed a family of four in the upper deck."
As the series shifted to Atlanta for Games 3, 4 and 5, the Phils knew they would have to keep Otis Nixon off the bases, for all things in Atlanta begin with the Brave centerfielder. Consider: Nixon hits in the 1 spot, he wears number 1, he named his first-born child Genesis.
And though Nixon reached base on eight of his 11 at bats in the first two games, though he scored twice, though he stole 47 bases this season at age 34, he kept insisting all last week that you should see his mother. Nixon claimed very seriously that as recently as 15 years ago, his fleet, 55-year-old mom, Gracie, could have beaten any current Brave save Deion Sanders in a footrace.
Nixon's leadoff counterpart, Dykstra, batted .305 and scored more runs (143) during his MVP-like regular season than any other National Leaguer since 1932. And yet in Games 1 and 2 he wasn't Nails at all, going 2 for 8 and striking out three times.
The Phils' wooden-shoe battery in Game 3 on Saturday afternoon had Terry Mulholland throwing to catcher Dutch Daulton. But the game, a 9-4 laugher for Atlanta, was a tale more typical of Larry Andersen than Hans Christian Andersen. In fact, Larry, who pitched to four batters in making his second relief appearance of the series, got off the funniest line of the day: ⅓IP, 2H, 3R, 3ER, 1BB, 0SO.
No team has lost three consecutive World Series since the 1911-13 New York Giants, and the Braves, who lost to the Minnesota Twins in 1991 and the Toronto Blue Jays in '92, have solemnly vowed not to change that, which accounts for their sober attitude toward this postseason. "We've heard all year about us being the Buffalo Bills of baseball," said pitcher Tom Glavine, the winner of Game 3. "We know it's out there."
Atlanta pitcher Steve Avery provided a metaphorical tableau of the Braves' quest last week. After one of the games the 23-year-old lefthander stared intently into a clubhouse mirror, his face fixed in grim determination, while making three attempts at tying his necktie. Too short. Too long. just right. The Braves are hoping that this third straight October ends up like Avery's neckwear, only less conspicuous.
And yet the series was unexpectedly tied in a Windsor knot by early Monday morning, and so were Atlanta stomachs. Dykstra was suddenly ubiquitous on the base paths, the Phils' holeyer-than-thou defense was newly hole-free, and Phillie lefthander Danny Jackson, who lasted about nine seconds in his lone playoff start with the Pittsburgh Pirates last year, was brilliant, bequeathing a 2-1 lead to Williams when he left with two outs in the eighth inning.