1995 Atlanta Braves: The Second Half of the Regular Season

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After Fred McGriff and Greg Maddux returned from the All-Star game in Arlington, Texas, the second half of the magical 1995 season took off.  The Braves were hotter than an Atlanta summer during the last few months of the season, winning almost two-thirds of their final 84 games. They posted a 20-8 record in July, 19-9 record in August, and cruised into the post season with a 16-12 record in September and October.   Trades in August for Mike Devereaux and Luis Polonia strengthened the bench for the stretch run and the playoffs.

The Braves clinched the division title on September 13 with a 9-7 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Denver.  Atlanta jumped out to a three-run lead in the second inning and never looked back.  The Rockies scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth off of Mark Wohlers to give the Braves a scare and make the game seem closer than it really was.  Jeff Blauser and Fred McGriff were two of the hitting stars.  Blauser launched his 12th home run of the season into the left field seats in the fourth inning.  McGriff had three hits, including his 26th home run of the season, and collected three RBIs.

During the Braves’ torrid second half, the team as a whole played well.  However, David Justice and Chipper Jones, in particular, hit the cover off of the baseball.  Justice hit most of his 24 home runs for the season after the All-Star break, including two in a game in August against Houston.  Rookie Chipper Jones played beyond his years in the second half.  He batted .282, hit 10 home runs and drove in 39 runs.  Jones certainly benefitted hitting third in the batting order before Fred McGriff and Justice.  Jones saw more fastballs from pitchers eager to keep him off the base paths before facing the veteran sluggers.

Javier Lopez, McGriff and Marquis Grissom also played key roles for the Braves.  Lopez, in only his second season in Atlanta, handled most of the catching duties and swung a consistent bat.  He hit .315, becoming the first Braves catcher to hit over .300 since Joe Torre in 1966. Six of his 14 home runs came from the seventh inning on.  Lopez also batted .359 with runners in scoring position.  McGriff led the Braves with 27 home runs, eight of those from the seventh inning on, and 93 RBIs.  Grissom played center field and did not make an error the last 91 games of the season.  He led Atlanta with 29 stolen bases; had a 14-game hitting streak, the longest streak by a Brave in 1995; and twice led off games with a home run.

While Justice, Jones, Lopez, McGriff and Grissom provided the run support, the Brave pitching staff shut down the opposition.  Tom Glavine and Maddux provided a potent one-two, righty- lefty combination, while Mark Wohlers thrived in the closer role.  Maddux posted a 19-2 record with an ERA of 1.63.  He became the first major league pitcher since Walter Johnson in 1918-1919 to have an ERA of less than 1.70 in two consecutive seasons.  Glavine won 16 games and notched his 1,000th strike out in an August game against Houston.  From June to the end of the season, Wohlers converted 19 straight save opportunities and tallied 25 total saves.  He pitched a team-high 22.1 consecutive scoreless innings; struck out a career-best 90 batters; walked just 24; and held opponents to a .211 batting average, right-handed batters hit only .191.

With a potent offense and over-powering pitching, Atlanta finished the regular season 90-54.  Over 2.5 million fans entered the turnstiles of Atlanta-Fulton County stadium and the Braves finished 21 games ahead of the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East Division.  Millions more watched the Braves on television or listened on the radio as broadcasters Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Don Sutton, and Joe Simpson detailed every one of the dozens of highlights the Braves generated during that magical season.  The fans, for the most part, had forgiven Braves players and management for the strike.  Those fans still harboring ill feelings would soon find their anger replaced with utter euphoria as the Braves would win 11 playoff games to bring home a championship.  Up next, the National League Division Series against the feisty Rockies.

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