Braves 1, Mets 0
NEW YORK (AP) _ So much for a Subway Series.
While the Yankees are doing their part, the Atlanta Braves have just about snuffed out that New York state of mind in the NL championship series against the Mets. The trains might be rumbling toward Shea Stadium next weekend, but it’s unlikely there will be any fans in the stands.
The Braves, upset in the NLCS the past two years, are taking no chances this season, building a virtually insurmountable 3-0 lead over the Mets when Tom Glavine started and John Rocker finished a 1-0 victory Friday night.
``It’s a long shot. No doubt about that,″ New York manager Bobby Valentine conceded. ``But we’re going to show up.″
Atlanta can advance to its fifth World Series of the decade _ but first since 1996 _ when John Smoltz pitches against New York’s Rick Reed tonight.
Glavine pitched seven sterling innings, making an unearned run in the first stand up. After Mike Remlinger pitched the eighth, it was time for Rocker to sprint in from the bullpen, well aware he became Public Enemy No. 1 in New York by saying he hates the Mets and calling their fans ``stupid.″
``He’s created some controversy up here, but he went out there and walked the walk and talked the talk, I guess,″ Glavine said, seeming a little embarrassed by Rocker’s shenanigans.
``I know it’s an awful lot different than most of us. Most of us just want to quietly come into town, beat somebody and get out of town. But it works for him. John is an extremely intense individual.″
The sellout crowd of 55,911 at Shea Stadium was clearly upset by comments made by Rocker and teammate Chipper Jones, waving signs such as ``I Want to Fight John Rocker″ and serenading Jones with slow chants of ``Lar-ry, Lar-ry″ _ his given name, but one he doesn’t like.
In the ninth, Rocker arrived at the mound to deafening boos. Seeming to thrive on the reception, he shook off an error by shortstop Walt Weiss to strike out Mets division series hero Todd Pratt, retire Melvin Mora on a deep fly to center and get Rey Ordonez on a weak grounder to Weiss to end the game.
Rocker pumped his fist at the quiet crowd while the Braves ran on the field to congratulate him. New York players walked back to their dugout with their heads down, surely aware that no team has recovered from an 0-3 deficit.
Afterwards, Rocker lingered near the Mets dugout, gleefully conducting television interviews while a handful of fans shouted obscenities from behind a barrier of police officers.
``I don’t regret anything I said,″ Rocker said. ``I’m probably a little more arrogant at times than I should be, but I enjoy getting in these people’s heads.″
The Mets juggled their lineup, shifting John Olerud from third to second in the order, bumping Robin Ventura from fifth to sixth and inserting right-handed hitters Benny Agbayani and Mora. It didn’t help _ New York has scored just five runs in the series.
``I don’t think we have to wait for historians,″ Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. ``The Braves pitchers are as good as there is _ in any era, in any decade.″
Olerud, Mike Piazza and Ventura, the Mets’ normal 3-4-5 hitters, have hit a combined .129 (4-of-31) with one RBI in the series. Ventura was lifted for a pinch-hitter, Pratt, in the ninth.
New York outhit the Braves 7-3, but Atlanta took advantage of a first-inning crack in New York’s record-setting defense, which had just 68 errors and a .989 fielding percentage during the regular season. The result was the only run of the game _ and it didn’t even require a hit.
After Gerald Williams led off the game with a walk, Bret Boone hit a dribbler in front of the plate. Al Leiter scooped up the ball in front of the mound, looked toward second then threw wide to Olerud at first.
Leiter, who led Mets pitchers with four errors during the regular season, stood in front of the mound with his hands on his head, as if he couldn’t believe the throw he had just made.
After Jones popped out to second, Williams and Boone worked a double steal on Piazza, who has the most errors (11) of any Mets player. The strategy paid off when his throw to second sailed into center field, allowing Williams to score and Boone to go to third.
It was the first time all year New York made two errors in one inning.
``I was thinking I should be throwing to second while I was throwing to first,″ Leiter said. ``To think my bonehead mistake, a poor throw, was the difference between a win and a loss. It was a total brain cramp.″
After that, the Mets played brilliantly on defense. Boone tried to score from third on Brian Jordan’s fly to medium center, only to be thrown out at the plate by Mora. Boone bowled over Piazza, who suffered a slight concussion but remained in the game.
Rickey Henderson, who didn’t have an assist from the outfield all season, threw out both Jones and Eddie Perez at second trying to stretch singles into doubles. In the sixth, Ordonez made a diving stop on a grounder in the hole, jumped to his feet and threw out Boone.
Even so, the Mets have been thoroughly dominated by the Braves, losing nine of 12 meetings during the regular season and 21 of 27 over the past two years.
Leiter, who came up big for the Mets in crucial games all year, pitched seven strong innings, limiting the Braves to three singles. But it wasn’t enough.
``That’s maybe as well as anybody has pitched in the series,″ Valentine said. ``It’s a darn shame.″
Notes: The last sweep in the NLCS was 1995, when the Braves defeated Cincinnati. ... Former New York Mets great Tom Seaver threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... A temporary wall along the first-base line tumbled over in the sixth inning as fans leaned over trying to scoop up a foul ball hit by Agbayani. No one was seriously hurt.