PITTSBURGH -- Doug Drabek has pitched the only complete game of the National League Championship Series, and all he has to show for it is a heartbreaking loss.
"I used to let games like the last one eat at me," Drabek said yesterday, referring to his 2-1 defeat in Game 2. "But why do that? I've learned how to forget those things."
His mound opponent will be the same, Cincinnati left-hande Tom Browning, and if both are in their groove, the game could pass in a hurry. Both work quickly.
"Browning works fast, and he gets even faster if he gets ahead and puts your hitters on defense," said Drabek, the league's leading winner with 22 victories. "You know it's probably going to be low scoring, so you try to keep your team in the game.
"I'm going to take it like any other start. I'm not going to try to d more than I'm capable of. I'll just try to throw strikes and let the defense help me out."
In the first matchup, at Riverfront Stadium, Drabek was in first-inning mess, but wriggled out of it with one run allowed. The Reds won when Barry Bonds lost Paul O'Neill's fly ball in the sun in the fifth inning and it fell for a game-winning double.
"I wasn't that nervous," said Drabek, "but the game's on TV, a lot of people are there and you want to do well. You try to throw the ball through a brick wall you have so much adrenalin."
The Pirates' best option would be to jump ahead for a chang and put the pressure on Browning, who went six innings in his first start, allowing a run on a homer by Jose Lind.
Relievers Rob Dibble and Randy Myers finished off matters.
"When I go out there, I intend to go nine innings and win th game," said Browning. "But when you've got those guys behind you, it's really hard to second-guess coming out after six or seven.
"They can come in and blow the ball right by people. They'r very intimidating pitchers. It's a pleasant sight to have them behind you."
Browning said the key to beating the Pirates is to keep th hitters in front of Andy Van Slyke, Bobby Bonilla and Bonds off base.
"Your first concern is the 3-4-5 guys in the lineup," he said "When you get to them, it's time to bear down. But they've done the same to us, shut down the middle of our lineup. We've just been able to take advantage of a couple situations down the order."
* Billy Hatcher said his home run in Game 3 did not compare with FTC the one he hit off Jesse Orosco in the 14th inning of Game 6 of the NL playoffs while playing for the Houston Astros.
"This one can't even come close to that one," said Hatcher. "I wanted to beat the Mets so bad, so very bad. I'll take this one, but that one was more special because the Astrodome was going nuts."
The Mets went on to win in 16 innings in the longest game in postseason history.
Hatcher said he isn't concerned that the home run is not recalle often.
"Once I finish playing baseball if nobody every remembers me again, it wouldn't bother me," he said. "When you do things, you really don't know what you've done.
"Later on down the line when I can get out the VCR, put in the tape and show it to my kids, I can show them that I really did it."
* Syd Thrift, the man credited with rebuilding the Pirates afte the drug scandals of the early 1980s, has returned triumphantly to Three Rivers Stadium.
Thrift was forced to resign two years ago in a front-office dispute and his hand-picked successor, Larry Doughty, has completed the job of getting the team back to the top.
Among the players Thrift brought to Pittsburgh are Van Slyke Drabek, Bonilla, Jeff King and Mike LaValliere.
"More important than the players I brought here is the manager," said Thrift. "The first person I hired is Jim Leyland."
Leyland was unproven and a gamble, especially after Thrift ri the team of high-salaried veterans and went for youth as a nucleus.
He said he sympathizes with Doughty, who faces a busy winte " with eight players eligible for free agency and Bonilla and Bonds pressing for multiyear contracts.
"Everyone makes mistakes," Thrift said of Doughty, who los several top prospects through procedural errors. "The only people who don't make mistakes are the people who don't do anything."
* Pre-game rain prevented both teams from taking batting practice. . . . Hall of Famer Willie Stargell threw out the first pitch, and Bobby Vinton sang the national anthem. . . . Of the 16 earned runs Zane Smith has allowed since joining the Pirates, eight have been scored by the Reds, including five in Game 3.