TORONTO -- How sweet it must have been for Lonnie Smith to circle the bases last night. How sweet to be a World Series hero after knowing the flip side of postseason success.
Maybe now they will forget that his base-running mistake cost the Atlanta Braves the world championship a year ago. Maybe not. But his grand slam off Jack Morris in the fifth inning of last night's Game 5 carried the Braves to a 7-2 victory and kept the champagne on ice for at least another couple of days.
Talk about a classic case of role reversal. Morris was the World Series MVP in 1991. He was the primary beneficiary when the Minnesota Twins infield distracted Smith long enough to keep him from scoring the potential winning run in Game 7. This time, he was the victim of the cruel joke. The Braves hammered him for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings to keep him winless in this postseason.
It all came down to the five-run fifth inning that didn't even begin to develop until there were two outs. It all came down to a tie-breaking single by Deion Sanders and a 1-2 pitch that Smith sliced over the right-field fence for the first grand slam ever hit by a designated hitter in World Series play. It all came down around Morris, who finished his postseason with an 0-3 record and 7.43 ERA.
"I can't tell you enough how humbling this game is," Morris said. "That's part of it. If you're around long enough, you have to take all of it. Tonight, I took the bad part.
"It's not easy to stand here in front of everyone because the results don't measure up to what I've accomplished in the past. I guess the positive thing is that the Braves have won two games and I pitched both of them. They're in real trouble now, because I'm not pitching again."
How ironic that the Blue Jays should sign Morris on the basis of his postseason success last year and get no return on that investment in the postseason this year. But they remain in control of the best-of-seven series. They lead 3-2 and need to win just one of the next two games to bring the world championship to Canada for the first time.
The sellout crowd of 52,268 wanted to get it done at SkyDome. Thousands of Toronto residents were poised to party in the streets last night and attend a world championship parade today. They will have to wait at least until tomorrow, when David Cone takes the mound against Steve Avery in Game 6 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Right-hander John Smoltz pitched a solid six innings, giving up two runs on five hits to earn his fifth career postseason victory without a defeat. He has gained quite a reputation for pitching well in pressure situations, but this was the first time he was rewarded with a victory in four World Series starts.
Smoltz turned in a spectacular performance when he faced Morris in the deciding game of last year's World Series, but got no offensive support and no decision. He also pitched well in Game 7 of this year's National League playoffs, but was not around when the Braves won in the ninth.
This time, he struggled to control his curveball and was fortunate to get through the early innings without ever falling behind. The Blue Jays had runners all over the place, but had to settle for a pair of RBI hits by catcher Pat Borders to stay close.
"In comparison to my other series starts, this would have to be last," Smoltz said, "but I'm excited to win."
The suspense built until the fifth, when Smith delivered the biggest hit of his big-league career and put another big dent in Morris' reputation as the premier postseason pitcher.
"It was a tough at-bat," Smith said. "It was a fastball. I've always had trouble pulling Jack. I got a ball out over the plate, so I tried to go with it."
He sliced the ball over the 375 sign in right and turned a one-run game into an easy victory.
"I thought I had hit it hard enough to go out," he said, "but Joe Carter kept chasing it and I started to doubt it."
The Braves had entered Game 5 facing a very pressing question: Would they wake up in time to postpone their winter vacation and push the series back to Atlanta?
There was room for doubt after a pair of very quiet offensive performances in the first two games at SkyDome. The Braves were so quiet in Game 4, in fact, that outfielder David Justice ripped the club yesterday morning on his Atlanta radio show.
"The enthusiasm wasn't there. . . . The bench was dead, like a spring training game," Justice said. "You looked over at them and they looked like they wanted to win."
First baseman Sid Bream echoed the same sentiment during a pre-game interview, but manager Bobby Cox became agitated when Justice's comments were read to him yesterday. Never mind that the Braves were batting a combined .185 after four games. Cox insisted that the intensity level was not a problem.
"We couldn't have been more fired up, in my estimation," Cox said. "Some guys say these things and they don't know what they're saying. That's a crock."
Perhaps a little controversy can be a good thing. The Braves looked pretty animated last night. Otis Nixon poked the first pitch of the game down the left-field line for a double and scored when Terry Pendleton pulled a one-out double down first.
Morris has had trouble in the early innings all year, but he had made a habit of hanging around long enough for help to arrive. He bounced back after Pendleton's double to retire eight of the next nine batters and the Blue Jays came back to tie the game in the second inning.
Round up the usual suspect. Borders, who has been the most consistent hitter in the Toronto lineup throughout the postseason, lined a double off the fence in left field to bring home John Olerud. The Braves would re-take the lead on a fourth-inning home run by Justice, but Borders brought the Blue Jays back again with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the fourth.
Borders has hit safely in 13 straight postseason games, the most by a catcher in major-league history. He delivered the game-winning RBI in Game 4 of the playoffs and hit his first postseason home run to account for half of the Blue Jays' offensive attack in Game 4's 2-1 win. He has come under some criticism for his club's inability to stop the Braves' running game, but his inability to throw runners out has been outweighed by his ability at the plate.
Braves-Blue Jays scoring Braves first: Nixon doubled down the left-field line. Sanders struck out. Nixon stole third. Pendleton doubled down the right-field line, Nixon scored. Justice struck out. L. Smith flied to right fielder Carter. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Braves 1, Blue Jays 0 .
Blue Jays second: Winfield lined to center fielder Nixon. Olerud singled to center. Maldonado walked, Olerud to second. Gruber struck out. Borders doubled down the left-field line, Olerud scored, Maldonado to third. Lee lined to third baseman Pendleton. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Blue Jays 1, Braves 1.
Braves fourth: Justice homered to right on 1-0 count. L. Smith flied to right fielder Carter. Bream flied to left fielder Maldonado. Blauser singled to left. Blauser caught stealing, catcher Borders to shortstop Lee. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Braves 2, Blue Jays 1.
Blue Jays fourth: Olerud singled to right. Maldonado walked, Olerud to second. Gruber flied to left fielder Sanders. Borders singled to center, Olerud scored, Maldonado to second. Lee grounded into fielder's choice to third baseman Pendleton, Maldonado forced at third, Borders to second. White struck out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Blue Jays 2, Braves 2.
XTC Braves fifth: Berryhill struck out. Lemke grounded to second baseman Alomar. Nixon singled to center. Nixon stole second. ++ Sanders singled to center, Nixon scored. Pendleton doubled down the right-field line, Sanders to third. Justice intentionally walked. L. Smith homered to right on 1-2 count, Sanders, Pendleton, Justice and L. Smith scored. Wells relieved Morris. Bream popped to left fielder Maldonado. 5 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Braves 7, Blue Jays 2.
ATLANTA AB R H BI BB SO Avg.
Nixon cf 5 2 3 0 0 0 .286
DSanders lf 5 1 2 1 0 1 .500
Pendleton 3b 5 1 2 1 0 1 .238
Justice rf 3 2 1 1 1 1 .200
LSmith dh 4 1 1 4 0 1 .167
Bream 1b 4 0 0 0 0 0 .250
Blauser ss 4 0 1 0 0 1 .158
Belliard ss 0 0 0 0 0 0 ---
Berryhill c 4 0 1 0 0 2 .111
Lemke 2b 4 0 2 0 0 0 .235
Totals 38 7 13 7 1 7
TORONTO AB R H BI BB SO Avg.
White cf 4 0 0 0 0 2 .190
RAlomar 2b 3 0 0 0 1 0 .111
Carter rf 4 0 1 0 0 1 .235
Winfield dh 4 0 1 0 0 1 .235
Olerud 1b 3 2 2 0 0 0 .308
a-Sprague ph-1b 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500
Maldonado lf 2 0 0 0 2 0 .077
Gruber 3b 4 0 0 0 0 1 .067
Borders c 4 0 2 2 0 0 .438
Lee ss 3 0 0 0 1 0 .067
Totals 32 2 6 2 4 5 Atlanta 100 150 000 -- 7 13 0
Toronto 010 100 000 -- 2 6 0
a-flied out for Olerud in the 8th.
LOB -- Atlanta 5, Toronto 7. 2B -- Nixon (1), Pendleton 2 (2), Borders (2). HR -- Justice (1) off JaMorris, LSmith (1) off JaMorris. RBI -- DSanders (1), Pendleton (1), Justice (3), LSmith 4 (5), Borders 2 (3). SB -- Nixon 2 (5). CS -- Blauser (1). GIDP -- RAlomar.
Runners left in scoring position -- Atlanta 2 (Pendleton, LSmith); Toronto 4 (White, Maldonado, Lee 2).
Runners moved up -- Nixon, DSanders, Sprague, Lee.
DP -- Atlanta 1 (Lemke, Blauser and Bream); Toronto 1 (Maldonado and Borders).
Atlanta IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA
Smoltz W, 1-0 6 5 2 2 4 4 114 2.70
Stanton S, 1 3 1 0 0 0 1 41 0.00
Toronto IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA
JaMorris L, 0-2 4 2/3 9 7 7 1 5 79 8.44
Wells 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 0 19 0.00
Timlin 1 0 0 0 0 0 9 0.00
Eichhorn 1 0 0 0 0 1 14 0.00
Stottlemyre 1 3 0 0 0 1 17 0.00
Smoltz pitched to 1 batter in the 7th.
Inherited runners-scored -- Stanton 1-0.
IBB -- off JaMorris (Justice) 1.
Umpires -- Home, Davidson; First, Shulock; Second, Crawford; Third, Reilly; Left, West; Right, Morrison. T -- 3:05. A -- 52,268.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Atlanta Braves (Blue Jays lead, 3-2) Game 1: Braves 3, Blue Jays 1
Game 2: Blue Jays 5, Braves 4
Game 3: Blue Jays 3, Braves 2
Game 4: Blue Jays 2, Braves 1
Game 5: Braves 7, Blue Jays 2
Tomorrow: at Atlanta, 8:26
Sunday: at Atlanta, 8:29*
(*-if necessary) TV: Channels 11, 9
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)
Grand slams hit in the World Series:
Player, team Year In.
Elmer Smith, Cle. 1920 1
Tony Lazzeri, NYY 1936 3
Gil McDougald, NYY 1951 3
Mickey Mantle, NYY 1953 3
Yogi Berra, NYY 1956 2
Bill Skowron, NYY 1956 7
B. Richardson, NYY 1960 1
Chuck Hiller, SF 1962 7
Ken Boyer, St.L. 1964 6
Joe Pepitone, NYY 1964 8
Jim Northrup, Det. 1968 3
Dave McNally, Balt. 1970 6
Dan Gladden, Minn. 1987 4
Kent Hrbek, Minn. 1987 6
Jose Canseco, Oak. 1988 2
Lonnie Smith, Atl. 1992 5