ATLANTA -- If the Philadelphia Phillies had some concerns about last night's pitching matchup, no one would have blamed them.
The Phillies' Danny Jackson had been kicked around Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium the last time he made a National League Championship Series start last year for Pittsburgh.
And Atlanta's John Smoltz had proven himself unbeatable in five previous postseason starts in the past two years.
Yet, when the dust and a questionable umpiring call settled hard in the pit of the Braves' stomachs, Jackson had a hard-fought 2-1 win for the Phillies to even up the NLCS at two games each and guarantee a return trip to Philadelphia for Game 6.
The Phillies struck out 15 times -- which tied an NLCS record -- and left 15 runners aboard, yet, thanks to the resourcefulness of Jackson, who had the game-winning RBI in the fourth, gave themselves new life in the series.
"Danny pitched a great game," said Philadelphia manager Jim Fregosi. "He made the pitches when he had to. His stuff was good. He gave us all he had."
"This is a huge lift for us," said closer Mitch Williams, who earned the save with his usual flair. "Danny goes out and pitches 7 2/3 innings and pitches tough. Curt Schilling [today's Game 5 starter] sees that and hopefully we can get a win before we go home."
Jackson and Smoltz, who struck out 10 but walked five, wriggled on and off the hook all night, but the 31-year-old lefty crossed up the Braves long enough to get the win.
Williams put a scare into the Philadelphia faithful with a rocky ninth inning. Pinch hitter Bill Pecota led off with a single. Otis Nixon then dropped a bunt in front of the mound that Williams couldn't handle. Shortstop Jeff Blauser attempted to sacrifice the two runners, but his bunt to the third-base side was fielded by Williams, who threw out Pecota at third, nearly pulling Kim Batiste off the bag.
"When Jim came out, I told Batty [Batiste] that Blauser was going to bunt over there and if he did I was coming, and he had to be ready," said Williams. "Batty made a great play because I didn't make a good throw."
Ron Gant then came to the plate with a chance to be a hero, but he grounded to second baseman Mickey Morandini, who turned a double play to end the game.
In the Atlanta seventh, Jackson squirmed his way out of another potential jam, with a big assist from first-base umpire Jerry Crawford.
Francisco Cabrera, the hero of last year's NLCS, got a pinch-hit single to center to lead off the inning. Deion Sanders came in to run for Cabrera, bringing Nixon to the plate.
Nixon dropped a bunt just to the first-base side of the pitcher's mound, which first baseman John Kruk ran to field. The ball dropped out of Kruk's glove and he hurried a throw to Morandini, who was covering the bag. Nixon appeared to clearly beat the throw, but Crawford called Nixon out, to the protest of Nixon, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox and the crowd of 52,032.
The Braves meekly ended the inning with Blauser grounding to short and Gant striking out. The crowd, however, was anything but meek, alternating boos with chants of "Safe" aimed at Crawford.
In the eighth, Jackson got the first two outs -- a strikeout of Fred McGriff and a ground ball to short from Terry Pendleton -- easily. But the Braves strung together singles from David Justice and Damon Berryhill, signaling the end for Jackson.
Fregosi then called on Williams, and in his typical "Wild Thing" style, he gave the stadium and all assembled heart palpitations, as Mark Lemke hit a drive to left, which Milt Thompson caught with a leap before crashing into the fence.
After mild threats in the first and second, the Phillies went to work again on Smoltz in the third, when with one out, Len Dykstra, who had been silent for most of the series, slapped a single to right, followed by Morandini's line single off Smoltz's right foot.
But Smoltz blew his way out of the mini-jam by striking out Kruk and Dave Hollins. In the process, Smoltz took over the lead for most career NLCS strikeouts from Philadelphia starter Steve Carlton.
Meanwhile, Jackson, who pitched for Pittsburgh last season and gave up four runs in 1 2/3 innings on the way to a 13-5 loss to the Braves in Game 2 of the series, stuck around considerably longer, though he had a few rough spots to work through.
Jackson, who beat the Braves twice this season, gave up a leadoff single to McGriff in the second. After Pendleton flied to left, Justice singled to right, moving McGriff to second. Greg Olson then flied to center, but Mark Lemke doubled just inside the left-field line, scoring McGriff for the first run of the game.
The Phillies broke through against Smoltz in the fourth. Daulton reached on an error to Lemke. Jim Eisenreich flied to left, but Thompson doubled just past a diving McGriff to move Daulton to third.
Stocker flied to left, driving in Daulton with the tying run. Then Smoltz, who picked up two quick strikes on Jackson, gave the Philadelphia pitcher a fat pitch that Jackson dribbled back up the middle to score Thompson with the winning run. The hit was Jackson's first single in 11 playoff at-bats, covering four LCS.
The Braves squandered a golden opportunity in the fifth, when Smoltz drew a one-out walk and moved to second on Nixon's single.
But Jackson got Blauser to fly to left and struck out Gant.