Giants defeat Braves
3 games to 2
|Game||Date||Winning Team||Losing Team|
|1||Oct. 2||SF 8||ATL 5|
|2||Oct. 3||ATL 7||SF 3|
|3||Oct. 5||ATL 10||SF 2|
|4||Oct. 6||SF 8||ATL 3|
|5||Oct. 7||SF 3||ATL 1|
Managers: Baker, Dusty, SF; Cox, Bobby, ATL
Path to the NLDS: San Francisco (95-66) won the NL Wild Card; Atlanta (101-59) won the NL East by 19 games
The Braves easily won their 11th consecutive division title and secured home-field advantage through the NL playoffs, as future Hall of Famer John Smoltz saved 55 games to complete his post-Tommy John surgery metamorphosis from elite starter to elite closer.
In this five-game National League Division Series, however, Smoltz had zero saves. That said it all, as Atlanta's bid to return to at least the NL Championship Series was foiled.
The Giants came in hot, having won the Wild Card in a race with the rival Dodgers, and led by slugger Barry Bonds. Bonds' home run total had dropped from 73 in 2001 to 46 in 2002, but his OPS had increased, from 1.379 to 1.381, and he was about to receive his fifth of seven NL Most Valuable Player Awards.
Intentionally walking Bonds was rarely a bad move, and Braves manager Bobby Cox ordered up three of them. The third time it happened was in Game 4 at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco, and this one offered a classic example of why the Giants were here in the first place: Bonds' intimidation factor.
The Braves were protecting a 2-1 series lead, and they had Tom Glavine on the hill. In the bottom of the second inning, he surrendered an RBI single to Rich Aurilia, making it a 3-0 Giants lead. Jeff Kent followed with a single that moved Aurilia to third. With two out, instead of relying on lefty great vs. lefty great as an advantage for the pitcher, Cox had Bonds intentionally walked for a third time in the series. The next batter up, Benito Santiago, proceeded to walk in a run to make it 4-0. Soon it was 7-0, and the Giants were en route to an 8-3 victory, evening the series.
That pushed the series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5. In the second inning, Bonds led off with a single off Kevin Millwood, and then scored the game's first run. In the top of the fourth, Bonds led off again. Cox, rather than following the managerial trend this time, had Milwood pitch to Bonds; the result was a solo rocket to the left-center-field seats at Turner Field, making it 2-0. That was the decisive run, as San Francisco celebrated its first Division Series title and advanced to the NLCS for the first time since winning the 1989 NL pennant.
For Bonds, it was at least a small measure of revenge, as the Braves dominated him in the 1991-92 NLCS while he was with Pittsburgh.