Marlins 5, Braves 2
MIAMI (AP) _ All the odds were against Charles Johnson. And yet somehow he overcame them, and the Florida Marlins overtook the Atlanta Braves.
Johnson delivered a tiebreaking, bases-loaded double in the sixth inning as the Marlins rallied once again, beating Atlanta 5-2 Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the NL championship series.
The three-run drive off John Smoltz erased any need for NL president Len Coleman to hear Marlins manager Jim Leyland’s official protest of an earlier play and delighted a baseball record crowd of 53,857 at Pro Player Stadium.
Johnson’s hit also was remarkable for two reasons.
No player in the majors batted more often this season with the bases loaded (13) without getting a hit. In addition, Johnson was 0-for-12 lifetime with eight strikeouts against Smoltz _ including his two previous at-bats in the game _ when stepped to the plate.
But Johnson, whose rare error in Game 2 sent the Braves toward a 7-1 win, hung in against Smoltz, whose 10 postseason wins tie him with Whitey Ford and Dave Stewart for the most in history.
Johnson fouled off a 2-2 pitch, then hit a liner that barely escaped left fielder Ryan Klesko’s dive and landed on the cinder warning track and one-hopped off the wall.
The Marlins spilled out of the dugout to greet the runners that scored. Leading the cheers was pitcher Alex Fernandez, diagnosed a day earlier with a torn rotator cuff.
Johnson’s hit capped a four-run inning, kept alive when Darren Daulton’s two-out liner froze right fielder Andruw Jones and sailed over his head for an RBI double.
Livan Hernandez, scheduled to pitch Game 6 in place of Hernandez, worked 1 2-3 scoreless innings for the win and Robb Nen got his second save of the series. The Marlins’ 47th come-from-behind win this season left Smoltz as the loser.
Game 4 will be Saturday night. Kevin Brown, the winner in Game 1, will start against 20-game winner Denny Neagle of the Braves.