In pinch, Leyland wins by sticking with pitcher


ATLANTA -- Jim Leyland never hesitated.

With a runner on third base, two out, his team leading, 1-0 and left-handed slugger David Justice due up first in the bottom of the ninth inning, Leyland allowed relief pitcher Roger Mason to bat yesterday.

Mason had two at-bats in the major leagues this season, a wal and a sacrifice. Why not go for a pinch hitter, a better chance at a second run and then a left-handed reliever?

"I just think that he [Mason] has the pitches to face the left-handers, and I feel totally confident he is going to throw strikes," said the Pittsburgh Pirates manager. "He has been pitching very effectively, so I decided to stay with him. I feel he has a pitch to combat left-handed hitters [forkball]."

Mason, a journeyman who has played for four teams, struck out, but he protected the lead and the victory despite one-out singles by Tommy Gregg and Greg Olson for the Atlanta Braves.

"I was surprised to be hitting," said Mason, who spent most of the season with the Class AAA Buffalo Bisons but pitched well as a closer for the Pirates the past two months.

"He [Leyland] said I'd hit no matter what, but I really wasn't sure. Steve [Buechele] was on third, so I didn't know. I figured I wasn't the top choice on the bench."

Another choice on whether to pinch-hit came with two on an two out, and Braves manager Bobby Cox left in right-handed-hitting Jeff Blauser to face Mason. Blauser lined out softly to end the game.

"I expected to see Sid [Bream]," said Mason. "I figured he'd b the first one off there."

Cox said he batted Blauser because Bream is slow, and "if h gets a single, we've got to pinch-run and he's out of the ballgame."

Big two coming back

The Pirates were not gloating about their position, the result of last year's loss to the Cincinnati Reds and the two starters they still must face: Steve Avery and John Smoltz.

"It sounds good going home up, but when you hear Avery and Smoltz, you're not all that excited about it," said Leyland. "We have a lot of work ahead of us. We haven't done anything yet."

That's what Atlanta is banking on. Avery beat the Pirates, 1-0 with a dominating performance, and Smoltz was the beneficiary of a big offensive eruption in a 10-3 decision.

"We've been in this situation before," said Bream. "I don't think there is a lot of reason to worry with those two going for us."

Ted and Jane stuck in elevator

Make no mistake, Ted Turner, the man in charge at CNN, TBS, TNT, SportSouth, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks and even World Championship Wrestling, is a man of power. He picks up a phone, barks a command and people in Atlanta move.

Everywhere, that is, except the press elevator at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Yesterday afternoon, less than an hour before the start of the game, Turner and his bride-to-be, actress Jane Fonda, boarded the elevator in the tunnel below ground level for the ride up to the press level of the stadium. The elevator, unaware of its important cargo, promptly jammed a few feet shy of its destination.

"I've been here 1,000 times, one million times, and this has never happened before," Turner said. "But we've never won a postseason game before [this series], either."

As his audience of reporters in the overcrowded elevator (14 instead of the capacity 12 -- "strictly enforced," the sign read) absorbed the scene, Turner donned his captain's hat.

"Push the alarm button," Turner said, and the button was pushed. A bell rang. "Push it again. Keep pushing it," he said. More bells, no movement.

"I think I've seen a movie like this before, 'The Streets of New York,' " Fonda said.

The movie talk inspired another idea. Someone should crawl through the opening of the ceiling and rescue the group. Kamon Simpson of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and News was drafted, and, about 10 minutes after the start of the drama, freedom was enjoyed by all.

"It's like opening night when you have a bad dress rehearsal," Fonda said. "That means the show is going to be good."

Indeed, the show was good for baseball fans, if not for Braves fans.


The Pirates and Braves have split 8 games at Three Rivers this season. . . . Jay Bell is within 3 hits of the NL playoff record of 13 held by Will Clark of San Francisco (1989). . . . The Pirates went home last night and the Braves will fly into Pittsburgh

today. Neither team will work out. . . . Pittsburgh pitchers have thrown 18 straight scoreless innings after allowing 2 runs in the first inning of Game 4. The record is 22 by St. Louis in 1987. . . . There had been 4 games with 1-0 scores in the first 22 years of the NL playoffs before this year. There have been 2 in this series. . . . Buechele struck out in his first at-bat yesterday and fell short of the NL playoff record for consecutive hits. He settled for 5 and a tie. . . . Longtime Braves broadcaster Ernie Johnson and fan Pearl Sandow threw out first pitches yesterday. . . . Barry Bonds is 0-for-12 with runners on base in the series.

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