Braves defeat Pirates
4 games to 3
|Game||Date||Winning Team||Losing Team|
|1||Oct. 6||ATL 5||PIT 1|
|2||Oct. 7||ATL 13||PIT 5|
|3||Oct. 9||PIT 3||ATL 2|
|4||Oct. 10||ATL 6||PIT 4|
|5||Oct. 11||PIT 7||ATL 1|
|6||Oct. 13||PIT 13||ATL 4|
|7||Oct. 14||ATL 3||PIT 2|
Managers: Cox, Bobby, ATL; Leyland, Jim, PIT
MVP: Smoltz, John
As the years and decades slide by, Sid Bream, the Braves' gimpy-kneed first baseman and former Pirate, is still laying there forever safely and gleefully in the dirt at home plate, under a dogpile of Atlanta players amid the deafening roar of Tomahawk-chopping fans at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium.
It was the defining moment for a long run of Atlanta Braves baseball in the postseason. The Braves were going back to the World Series for the second year in a row, and it was the finish of this NLCS against Pittsburgh that their fans would remember forever. For the Pirates, blowing a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning of a Game 7 and a third straight NLCS elimination was too hard to rationalize.
After all, they had their ace Doug Drabek on the mound to start that inning, after dominating Atlanta for eight innings. Barry Bonds, about to receive his second of seven NL MVP awards, had finally come alive in a postseason after flopping in '90 and '91; he had a pair of hits in each of the Game 5 and 6 blowout wins for Pittsburgh, part of an offensive explosion by his club that forced a Game 7. This was the Pirates that their fans had waited to see, and a first Fall Classic since 1979 seemed assured.
Drabek, who would somehow finish this series with an 0-3 record, gave up a leadoff double to Terry Pendleton, the third baseman who would finish second to Bonds in the league MVP voting. Then Gold Glove second baseman Jose Lind tried to make a flashy backhand stab a routine grounder hit to him by David Justice, and the costly error put runners at the corners. Bream was walked by Drabek, loading the bases, and Pirates manager Jim Leyland summoned Stan Belinda from the pen. Ron Gant lined a sacrifice fly to Bonds in left, and Pendleton scored to cut the Pirates' lead to 2-1.
Damon Berryhill was up next for Atlanta, and on a 3-and-1 count, Belinda grooved a fastball that appeared to be a strike down the middle. It was ball four, and Pirates catcher Mike LaVallier barked at home plate umpire John McSherry. Everything seemed to mount against Pittsburgh in an interminably long half-inning. The bases were loaded again, still just one out. Brian Hunter pinch-hit and popped out to Lind, keeping the runners in position.
Now it was up to a 25-year-old backup catcher from the Dominican Republic named Francisco Cabrera, who was pinch-hitting in the pitcher's spot. Cabrera had appeared in only 12 games during the regular season, going 3-for-10 at the plate. He got the green light on 2-and-0 and ripped a shot down the left side, but hooking just foul. Again he was not taking, scorching the next pitch into left field.
Bonds and center fielder Andy Van Slyke were Gold Glove regulars. According to Van Slyke years later, in a 2011 MLB Network interview for its 20 Greatest Games series, he had asked Bonds at the start of Cabrera's at-bat to take a few steps in -- and got the "international peace sign" from the famously brash left fielder in return. "So I said, 'Fine, you play where you want,'" Van Slyke said.
Now Bonds was forced to move toward his left and then throw across his body as Bream was lumbering around third. The throw was slightly off-line toward first base, but LaValliere snagged it and swiped to apply the tag. Bream's foot got there a millisecond first, immortally brushing the plate, and a Blue Jays-Braves World Series matchup was suddenly all set.