In Philadelphia story, plot full of surprises Outscored by Braves, Phillies seek clincher

The managers of the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies canceled workouts yesterday, the day before the sixth game of the National League Championship Series.

That's probably a good thing, for there have been enough surprises in the series to tax the minds and bodies of even the most supremely conditioned athletes, not to mention guys such as John Kruk.


For instance, who would have figured that the Phillies, after giving up 23 runs in games 2 and 3, would win two of three at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series?

Who would have thought that the Braves, masters of the late-inning postseason comeback, would have mustered two ninth-inning rallies, only to lose twice in the 10th?


And who could have predicted that the Phillies, who led the National League in runs, would win their three games by one run, get blown out in the other two and be outscored 30-17 overall?

"If you would have told me that we'd win the one-run games and they'd have two blowouts, I'd have said you were crazy. You never know what to expect," said Phillies manager Jim Fregosi.

Yet, as the scene shifts to Veterans Stadium for Game 6 tonight, all of that has come to pass, and the Phillies now have two shots to win their first pennant in 10 years.

About the only thing that has held to form is the dominance of Atlanta's starters.

Steve Avery, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz have a combined 2.16 ERA in the first five games, which normally would be good enough to switch the advantage, if not win the series outright.

But the difference has been the Atlanta bullpen's inability to hold the Phillies at key moments.

Braves closer Greg McMichael, for instance, gave up a 10th-inning double to John Kruk in Game 1, followed by an RBI single to Kim Batiste, which allowed the Phillies to win, 4-3, after Mitch Williams had blown a save by surrendering a run in the top of the ninth.

In Monday's Game 5, McMichael gave up a bases-empty homer to Darren Daulton, giving Philadelphia a 3-0 lead. But Williams blew another save in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Braves to tie the score.


Then Atlanta reliever Mark Wohlers watched Len Dykstra whack his 3-2 pitch over the right-center-field fence in the 10th to give the Phillies another 4-3, extra-inning win. Wohlers and McMichael have a combined 6.16 ERA in the series.

The Phillies bullpen hasn't exactly been stellar, either. Williams has two wins, but only because he has failed to hold two leads.

But the Phillies have gotten effective work from Curt Schilling and Danny Jackson, who have lasted long enough in their starts to allow Fregosi to skip over his shaky middle relievers and take his chances with Williams, who saved a team-record 43 games in 1993.

"Danny Jackson and Curt Schilling are the reasons we are going back to Philadelphia," said Dykstra.

Schilling, the former Orioles reliever, has been brilliant. He has a 1.69 ERA, has struck 19 in his two starts -- both no-decisions -- and is a solid candidate for series Most Valuable Player if the Phillies win.

But a Phillies win is hardly a certainty, for two big reasons -- Maddux and Glavine, Atlanta's starters for games 6 and 7.


"If we didn't have the two best pitchers in the game going for us up there, I might be more worried," said Avery.

Maddux, who will start tonight, and Glavine have won the past two Cy Young Awards and are the top candidates this year. Each won 20 games in the regular season and a game in this series.

Atlanta third baseman Terry Pendleton said last week that Maddux is the pitcher on the staff who likes to have the ball in big games.

"I try not to think about the game that way," said Maddux. "I just need to go out and pitch the way I did in Game 2. I need to be relaxed and make good pitches."

Maddux's opponent, Philadelphia's Tommy Greene, needs to do the opposite of his Game 2 start, when he suffered his first home loss in 11 decisions this season, giving up seven runs in 2 1/3 innings.

"I was real anxious out there the other night," said Greene. "I wanted to be a part of everything and I got anxious, not nervous."


Fregosi said: "Tommy has had games like that in the past, and he has come back and fired after that. There's no doubt in my mind he'll give us a very good effort."