Braves defeat Cardinals
4 games to 3
|Game||Date||Winning Team||Losing Team|
|1||Oct. 9||ATL 4||STL 2|
|2||Oct. 10||STL 8||ATL 3|
|3||Oct. 12||STL 3||ATL 2|
|4||Oct. 13||STL 4||ATL 3|
|5||Oct. 14||ATL 14||STL 0|
|6||Oct. 16||ATL 3||STL 1|
|7||Oct. 17||ATL 15||STL 0|
Managers: Cox, Bobby, ATL; La Russa, Tony, STL
MVP: Lopez, Javy
NLDS: Atlanta over Los Angeles (3 games to 0); St. Louis over San Diego (3 games to 0)
Atlanta was going to yet another World Series, its fourth in the last five such opportunities (excluding the canceled '94 postseason). For all their brilliant starting pitching -- including three future Hall of Famers in Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz -- the Braves left mouths agape in this series by hammering out 77 hits and 44 runs. Most remarkably, they shut out the Cardinals by a combined 29-0 in two of their wins, Games 5 (14-0) and 7 (15-0).
Still, there was never a sense through most of this NLCS that Atlanta was going to get a chance to repeat. After they won Game 1 at home behind Smoltz, 4-2, Bobby Cox's Braves lost the next three in a row. Tony La Russa, in his first full season managing the Cardinals, was intent on returning to a Fall Classic stage where he had been so familiar with the A's from 1988-90. He had brought his former A's closer Dennis Eckersley along for this ride, and the Eck had saved all three wins in the NLDS sweep of San Diego. Eckersley finished off Games 2-4 in shutdown style, and on Monday, Oct. 14, fans flocked downtown for a rally in St. Louis as the first World Series there since 1987 was within reach.
Alas, the Cardinals never knew what hit them. That night, the Braves batted around against Todd Stottlemyre in the top of the first. It was 5-0, and they were just warming up. Catcher Javy Lopez grounded into a forceout that inning, but he proceeded to reach base his next five at-bats in the route, a homer, two doubles and a walk.
Lopez was now turning this series into his own showcase, and he was named NLCS MVP after playing a key role in each Braves victory. His two-run single had broken the 2-2 tie in Game 1, and he was 13-for-24 (.545) overall with eight runs. Chipper Jones had emerged as a rookie in '95 to lead Atlanta to its first title, and now the catcher position was emerging as yet another key strength on a club that kept playing into late Octobers. Their next matchup was with a Yankee club that was ending a long World Series hiatus, and it would mean up to three more dates for the outgoing Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
For Cardinal fans, the 1996 NLCS was a last chance to watch the Wizard in a postseason. Ozzie Smith, who had announced in June that he would retire at year's end, was hitless in nine NLCS at-bats. Perhaps fittingly, his final appearance at the plate came against a fellow future Hall of Famer. It was a foul flyout to right off Tom Glavine as a pinch-hitter in the sixth-inning, with Atlanta up by 10.