ATLANTA -- Say one thing for the Atlanta Braves: When they let a team back into a postseason series, they do it in style.
The Braves, who threatened to oust the Pittsburgh Pirates from the National League Championship Series last week, are in jeopardy of losing a series they completely controlled after last .. night's 13-4 Pittsburgh pasting in Game 6.
"I'm sure you [reporters] will [read too much into last night's game]," said Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland. "I won't. I know Atlanta won't. We needed to win and we did. Now we're in a situation where we need to win one and Atlanta needs to win one."
Hardly anyone who saw the first two games of this series would believe that Pittsburgh would be in a position to get to the World Series.
Yet, the Pirates, who trailed 3-1, can become the first team to win a NLCS after being in such a hole.
Just as significantly, the Pirates, who lost last year's NLCS in seven games to Atlanta, are seeking to do what the Braves did last year: namely, win the title on the road after trailing 3-2.
"We didn't play well and the guys in this clubhouse still felt confident down 2-0," said Pirates catcher Don Slaught. "Now, we've got it down to one game."
Pittsburgh's Doug Drabek, who lost Game 6 last year, and
Games 1 and 4 this year, will start tonight against John Smoltz, who beat him in both games this year.
Pittsburgh erupted for eight runs in the second inning, which tied an NLCS record, and never looked back.
"I just hope we tired them out," said Braves outfielder David Justice, who hit two home runs long after the matter had been decided. "I hope they got so many hits that they can't run the bases."
Barry Bonds, who had been in a three-year postseason slump, had two hits, a homer and a single, both in the second.
"We got some lucky breaks and we tried to stay aggressive. Nothing too complicated," said Bonds, who has now pieced back-to-back multi-hit games for the first time in his 19-game playoff career.
Leyland said, "When a guy plays a couple of games during the regular season without any hits, he's not in a slump. And when he goes a couple of games with a lot of hits, he's not on a tear. But when you get here, all of a sudden, it's a slump. I just know that Barry had a good game."
Bonds had help from right fielder Lloyd McClendon, who singled twice, walked, and homered to score three runs, and from Jay Bell, whose three-run homer in the second put the game out of reach.
Rookie knuckleballer Tim Wakefield continued his impressive three-month ride through the National League, winning his second must-win game of the NLCS, and his 20th overall, counting the 10 games he won at Triple-A Buffalo before he was called up in late July.
"It's just a great honor to actually be in the big leagues," said Wakefield. "A lot of guys never get a shot at pitching in the LCS and spend eight to 10 years in the big leagues."
McClendon, who has five straight hits, tying a NLCS record, and is hitting .727 in the series, gave Wakefield all the credit.
"It would be over without Tim," McClendon said. "He's 2-0 and he's been a major factor for us. When he first came up, he did a tremendous job and he's continued to do it in the playoffs."
Wakefield appeared to tire late in the game, when Justice tagged him, but he was effective when he needed to be.
"I thought we hit him as good as we could two times," said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, who was the skipper of the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays when they lost the ALCS to the Kansas City Royals after leading 3-1. "If it was a closer game, I think it would have gone a lot different. We gave up too many runs early."
When the Braves and the Pirates left Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium last Wednesday for Game 3 in Pittsburgh, there were serious doubts that the series would return here.
However, in the last two games, Atlanta has more closely resembled the team that finished last in 1990 than the team that won 192 games this season and last.
The most immediate and obvious culprit is the Braves' vaunted pitching staff, and lately it has been their top two pitchers, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery, who have been pounded.
Glavine, who dropped Game 3 also to Wakefield, was blasted last night, giving up all eight runs in the second -- without an out -- to run his career NLCS record to 0-4.
Glavine and Avery, who went just one-third of an inning in Sunday's 7-1 drubbing, have a combined ERA in those two games of 74.25.
Both Glavine and Cox maintained that the left-hander who won 20 in the regular season, beating Pittsburgh twice, had good velocity.
"I just had terrible location," said Glavine. "If you don't put it where you need to put it, a good team like Pittsburgh is going to hit it. "I've said it before: I'd rather go out there with good location and terrible stuff than the other way."
Somehow, things have gone the other way for the Braves, and they may be on their way out.
Eight is enough
The Pirates put away last night's game with eight runs in the second. How they did it:
1-0: Barry Bonds homered.
3-0: Jeff King and Lloyd McClendon singled, then scored on Don Slaught's double.
4-0: Jose Lind grounded to shortstop, but Jeff Blauser's throw to third hit Slaught, sending Slaught home and Lind to second.
5-0: Tim Wakefield bunted, but Lind was safe at third on Tom Glavine's throw. Gary Redus doubled, scoring Lind.
8-0: Jay Bell homered with Wakefield and Redus on.
& Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves (Series tied, 3-3) Game 1: Braves 5, Pirates 1
Game 2: Braves 13, Pirates 5
Game 3: Pirates 3, Braves 2
Game 4: Braves 6, Pirates 4
Game 5: Pirates 7, Braves 1
Game 6: Pirates 13, Braves 4
Today: at Atlanta, 8:26
TV: Channels 11, 9
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)
Two hits are better than one
NB Players who have had two hits in one inning of a playoff game:
Player .. .. .. Team .. .. Yr. .. .. Inn.
Graig Nettles .. N.Y.-A .. '81 .. .. 4th
Jack Clark .. .. St. L. .. '85 .. .. 2nd
Tito Landrum .. .St. L. .. '85 .. .. 2nd
Jerome Walton .. Chi.-N .. '89 .. .. 1st
Rickey Henderson .. Oak. ..'90 .. .. 9th
Barry Bonds .. .. ..Pitt .. '92 .. ..2nd
Lloyd McClendon .. Pitt. .. '92 .. ..2nd