ATLANTA -- This hasn't been the greatest of seasons for Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant.
After breaking into the elite of National League outfielders with a stellar 1991 season that included 32 home runs and 105 RBI, Gant slipped a bit this year, hitting 17 homers and driving in 80 runs.
So, with fellow outfielders Otis Nixon and Deion Sanders stealing his thunder, Gant felt he needed something, anything, to put himself back in the forefront.
He took care of that yesterday with one swing that yielded a fifth-inning grand slam that propelled the Braves to a 13-5 clubbing of the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 2.
"I told myself to get ready for the playoffs to be able to display everything that I have," said Gant. "I hit the grand slam and the emotion just came out. I felt it was a good time to do what I did."
And how. The homer was not only his first hit of the series, but the first grand slam of his career.
"I knew he [Pittsburgh pitcher Bob Walk] would throw thfastball in that situation [down 2-0 in the count with the bases loaded]. He had shattered my bat the last time up, so I was ready for it."
And he's ready to continue contributing.
"I'm swinging the bat as well as any time in my career," he said.
The kid's all right
Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine, who will start Game 3 tomorrow night in Pittsburgh, proclaimed himself largely healed from a recent rib fracture.
Glavine (20-8) said he hurt his ribs as a consequence of a stomach virus and continued to pitch, altering his mechanics to work through the pain.
"There were times at the start of my delivery when it hurt there. For the most part, it hurt when I was trying to get down through the ball at the end of my delivery and that's why I was leaving so many pitches up on the outer half of the strike zone," said Glavine.
Glavine said the ailment bothered him for about six weeks, then went away.
"I feel comfortable now and it's to a point now where I'm not thinking about what I'm doing and where I'm releasing the ball and thinking again about what pitches I want to make and where I want to throw them,"
Shutting the door
Steve Avery, yesterday's Atlanta starter, set a playoff record for consecutive scoreless innings, going 22 1/3 without allowing a run.
The previous mark of 18 was held by Ken Holtzman of the Oakland Athletics, who blanked the Orioles in 1973 and 1974.
Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz told a national television audience that the hoopla surrounding Sanders was overshadowing his team's achievements.
"In this particular issue, I do because it ought to be focused on our team, which won more games than anybody in baseball and is now battling to win the National League title again," he said, when asked about Sanders' plan to play for both the Braves and NFL Falcons Sunday.
"I think that's where the focus should be. Too much attention is being given to one individual."
Lighting up the scoreboard
The 18 combined runs scored by the Braves and the Pirates set a playoff record, besting the 17 posted by the Orioles and California in 1979 and by the New York Mets and Braves in 1969.