Braves 15, Cardinals 0
ATLANTA (AP) _ This wasn’t a comeback, this was a wipeout.
The Atlanta Braves unleashed all their fury in the biggest blowout in postseason history, trouncing the St. Louis Cardinals 15-0 in Game 7 of the NL championship series Thursday night to complete a startling rally from a 3-1 deficit.
Pitcher Tom Glavine hit a bases-loaded triple that capped a six-run first inning, and 52,067 crazed fans spent the rest of the evening partying as the Braves earned a chance to defend their World Series title.
Game 1 will be Saturday night in New York against the Yankees. The Braves have reached four of the last five World Series, making it this time by outscoring St. Louis 32-1 in three straight games.
``They made my job real easy tonight,″ Glavine said.
After Atlanta good-luck charm Francisco Cabrera threw out a first ball _ and before the fans broke into singing ``New York, New York″ _ Glavine shut out St. Louis on three hits for seven innings. He got support from two-homers by NLCS MVP Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff and Andruw Jones _ at 19, Jones surpassed Mickey Mantle as the youngest player to connect in a postseason game.
``The loss stings a lot because of the type of game it was,″ Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ``A lot of guys are bothered by it.″
The painful loss, making the Cardinals the only club to blow a 3-1 edge three times in the postseason, meant the end of Ozzie Smith’s career.
The future Hall of Famer, who has announced his retirement, fouled out as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. The 41-year-old shortstop waved his helmet to a standing ovation, and drew hugs from his teammates in the dugout.
Though Marquis Grissom began the rout by singling on Donovan Osborne’s first pitch, the Braves’ playoff comeback clearly started before then.
It may have begun back at Busch Stadium when Dennis Eckersley pumped his fist forcefully in the air after a Game 4 win that gave St. Louis a 3-1 lead. The prompted the Cardinals to put 20 cases of champagne on ice in anticipation of a clincher that never came, and seemed to anger Atlanta.
The Braves came out the next night and scored five runs in the first inning on their way to a 14-0 rout behind John Smoltz, sending the best-of-7 series back to Atlanta.
In what could have been the final game in the history of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Greg Maddux pitched the Braves to a 3-1 win Wednesday night. And then Glavine, MVP of the 1995 World Series, finished off the Cardinals to even his career postseason record at 7-7 in 16 starts.
``You always worry, but there’s an awful lot of talent on this team,″ Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
The Cardinals had been the only team to twice blow a 3-1 lead, having done it in the 1968 and 1985 World Series. They had never lost an NL playoff series, going 4-0 until running into Atlanta.
The Braves became the eighth team out of 48 to overcome a 3-1 deficit, and the first ever to do it in the NLCS. They also added to their legacy of playoff comebacks _ they won the last two games of the 1991 NLCS to beat Pittsburgh, then came back the next year to defeat the Pirates in Game 7 when Cabrera’s two-out, two-run single capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Braves’ 14-0 victory in Game 5 had matched the New York Yankees’ 18-4 victory over the New York Giants in the 1936 World Series for the largest margin of victory in a postseason game.
The Braves began quickly against game 3 winner Osborne, given an extra day to pitch in the seventh game. Grissom singled to center on the first pitch. Mark Lemke doubled on the next pitch and McGriff got an RBI on a misplayed grounder.
After Lopez, who hit .542 in the series, walked on a full count, Jermaine Dye and fellow rookie Jones hit RBI singles. Jeff Blauser was hit by a pitch that loaded the bases and Glavine, who led all pitchers with a .289 batting average this season, sliced a fly ball to left field. Ron Gant came up inches short on a head-long dive, and briefly stayed on the ground as he watched the ball and the Cardinals’ season roll away.
Andy Benes then relieved Osborne and was tagged in the fourth for an RBI single by McGriff and Lopez’s third homer of the postseason. McGriff tripled in the sixth, Lopez doubled and Jones homered.
NOTES: This was the Cardinals’ worst shutout loss since a 19-0 defeat on Aug. 3, 1961 against Pittsburgh. ... Blauser left the game as a precaution after being hit in the leg by a pitch.