1995 Atlanta Braves: World Series Games 3, 4 and 5

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After two close games in Atlanta, the Series shifted to Cleveland for the next three games.  Ever the antagonizer, Kenny Lofton stated that the Indians would have won the first two games if they were played in Cleveland because of the passionate Cleveland fans.  The fact of the matter is that the Braves pitchers had held the potent Cleveland offense to a .096 batting average through the first two games.

Game 3 matched John Smoltz against Charles Nagy.  The temperature at game time was a brisk 49 degrees with a wind chill factor of 29 degrees.  A 25-mph wind came blowing into Jacobs Field off of Lake Erie.  Leo Mazzone and the other Braves on the bench sat bundled up in Braves jackets and gloves.  Atlanta scored in the top of the first on an RBI single from Fred McGriff, but this was not to be Atlanta’s night.  Cleveland answered with two runs off of Smoltz in the bottom half of the inning then two in the bottom of the third to chase him.  Smoltz pitched 2.1 innings giving up four runs on six hits.  Mazzone sat on the bench stunned with no movement.  Dave Pursley glanced over at Mazzone several times during the inning and couldn’t believe Mazzone was so still.  Finally, he walked over to shake Mazzone to see if he was asleep from the cold or had passed on to the great ballpark in the sky.  Mazzone was okay, but the Braves knew their bats had to heat up quickly to stay in the game.  McGriff started the comeback with a home run in the top of the sixth to cut the deficit to two.  Ryan Klesko then launched a solo shot in the seventh to pull the Braves within one.  However, Cleveland answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning when Lofton scored on a Carlos Baerga single.

With Cleveland leading 5-3 in the eighth inning, Atlanta took the lead 6-5 on RBI singles from Luis Polonia and Mike Devereaux and one big Cleveland error.  However with the passionate Cleveland fans urging them on, the Indians tied the game in the bottom of the inning then won it in the bottom of the eleventh.  With Cleveland’s 7-6 victory, the Series stood at two games to one.   Bobby Cox had a tough decision to make for Game 4—bring back Maddux on short rest or start Steve Avery.  As the night wore on, people thought they heard Mazzone singing some version of “I Will Survive,” a song made famous by Gloria Gaynor.

Cox reasoned that he had four quality starters and wanted all of them to pitch with the proper amount of rest, so Cox decided on pitching Avery for Game 4.  Some members of the media questioned this decision because Cox would be without Maddux for a Game 7.  Yet, Avery closed out the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), 6-0, and he had a 4-2 record all-time in the postseason.  Tom Glavine thought Cox’s decision was a good one.  Glavine noted that Avery walked around the clubhouse in the postseason with a lot of confidence, was very focused, and seemed like the pitcher who shut down the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1991 NLCS, earning Most Valuable Player for his two wins over the Pirates.

On another cold night in Cleveland, Avery took the mound against Ken Hill.  Through five innings neither team had lit the scoreboard.  Avery had only given up a pair of singles to the best hitting team in baseball.  Mazzone, again, seemed very subdued, rocking steadily at a controlled pace.  After a few innings Mazzone noticed that Avery was using the change-up down and outside as his main pitch, throwing twice as many change-ups as fastballs.  Normally, according to Mazzone, his pitchers would throw twice as many fastballs as off-speed pitches.  Between one of the early innings, Mazzone suggested that Avery throw more fastballs.  Avery responded that the Cleveland batters could not hit his change-up and weren’t making adjustments, so he told Mazzone he was going to continue to throw the hitters mainly change-ups.  Mazzone could not argue with Avery’s success, so he endorsed the strategy and went back to his controlled rocking.

Atlanta finally broke through in the top of the sixth inning on Klesko’s long home run to right field.  With a 1-0 lead, Avery gave up a tying shot to Albert Belle but finished the inning with no further damage.  Avery came out of the game after the sixth having allowed one earned run on three hits.  Atlanta rewarded Avery’s outstanding performance with three runs in the top of the seventh. Polonia doubled home Marquis Grissom with the go-ahead run and David Justice completed the rally with a single that drove in Polonia and Chipper Jones, who had been intentionally walked.

Cox brought in Greg McMichael to pitch the seventh and eighth innings, and he kept the Indians from adding to their run total.  The game remained 4-1 entering the ninth inning.  Fred McGriff opened the inning with a double and three batters later Javy Lopez drove him home with another double.  With a 5-1 lead, Cox turned to closer Mark Wohlers to finish the game.  Wohlers promptly gave up a leadoff home run to Manny Ramirez and a double to pinch hitter Paul Sorrento.  As Mazzone curled up in the fetal position on the bench, Cox brought in Pedro Borbon, Jr. to finish the game.  Borbon responded by striking out the next two batters and securing the third out on a Lofton line drive to Justice.  With the 5-2 win, the Braves now owned a 3-1 Series lead, and in the clubhouse, people clearly heard Mazzone belting out Tag Team’s song, “Whoomp! (There it is)” over and over and over again.

Game 5 matched the same pitchers as Game 1:  Maddux vs. Hershiser.  With their backs to the wall, the Indians came out swinging.  In the bottom of the first inning, Belle ripped a two-run homer over the right-field wall for a 2-0 Cleveland lead, but the Braves battled back.  Polonia, in the top of the fourth inning, sent a shot over the right-field wall to cut Atlanta’s deficit to 2-1, then in the fifth inning, Grissom drove in Klesko with an infield single to tie the game, 2-2.  However, the Indians countered with two runs in the bottom of the sixth on RBI singles from Jim Thome and Ramirez.  By this time, Mazzone had been singing Eric Clapton’s version of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” while maintaining a steady rock.  Mazzone almost seemed melancholy.  Maddux lasted seven innings while giving up four earned runs on seven hits, certainly not numbers that one would normally expect from him.   Hershiser, on the other hand, pitched brilliantly, giving up two runs, one earned, on five hits through eight innings.  Thome homered off of Brad Clontz in the eighth to widen the lead to 5-2 and Klesko hit a two-out, two-run homer off of Jose Mesa to cut the deficit to one in the ninth.  Mesa struck out Mark Lemke to end the game and cut Atlanta’s Series lead to 3-2.  As the Braves players and coaches exited the dugout, Mazzone serenaded them with his version of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia,” replete with his imitation of the Pips’ moves.

With the Series shifting back to Atlanta, questions arose from fans and the media as to whether the Braves would finally win a World Series.  Before Game 6, controversy arose and the plot thickened!

Comments

  1. John Dorsey says:

    Jim,
    As a 70 year-old lifelong Cleveland Indians fan, I have been to two World Series games. The first one was game 4 of the 1995 series against Atlanta you discuss in your article. With the Indians trailing two games to one, I knew the series was over when Dave Justice’s single in the seventh brought in two runs to give the Braves a 4-1 lead in the game.
    The second one was last Tuesday’s game 6 against the Cubs, with the Indians up three games to two. Here too I knew the series was over when in the first inning Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall did the old Alphonse-Gaston routine to allow two runs to score on a two-out routine fly ball to right-center – giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the game.
    Very tough on this old Cleveland boy!

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