CINCINNATI -- The Braves traded for former Orioles outfielder Mike Devereaux thinking he could help them against left-handed pitching. But in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series last night, Devereaux picked on a right-hander just when Atlanta needed it most.
Batting against Cincinnati right-hander Mike Jackson, Devereaux singled home Fred McGriff with two outs in the 11th inning to put the Braves ahead, 2-1, and Atlanta held off the Reds after killing a Cincinnati rally in the bottom of the 11th with its fifth double play of the game.
The paid attendance was 40,382, more than 12,000 below Riverfront Stadium capacity. Only 36,752 were actually in attendance.
Jackson, who took the mound to start the 11th, didn't issue a walk in three relief appearances against the Dodgers last week. But he pitched carefully to Fred McGriff leading off the 11th, and walked the Braves slugger.
Luis Polonia sacrificed McGriff to second. Atlanta catcher Javy Lopez grounded to third, the second out, bringing Devereaux to the plate.
Going into this series, manager Bobby Cox had speculated that Devereaux could play a pivotal role because of the Reds' left-handed starters. But Devereaux, who entered the game in the bottom of the ninth, has always hit well against right-handers.
On a 2-1 pitch, Devereaux smacked a line single to center, scoring McGriff with the lead run.
Thomas Howard hit a ground-rule double to start the 11th and moved to third on a grounder to second. Steve Avery relieved Brad Clontz and walked pinch-hitter Mariano Duncan. But Greg McMichael replaced Avery and got Reggie Sanders to hit into a double play.
"We put pressure on them all night long," said Reds manager Davey Johnson, "and we had situations when one hit would've broken the game open. But we couldn't get it done. That killed us."
The Reds' strategy for tonight in Game 2? "We'll try not to hit into any double plays," Johnson replied.
Pete Schourek went from a waiver claim in 1994 to one of the best left-handers in the NL in '95, and he took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning against the Braves, who hadn't so much as advanced a runner to second base.
But Chipper Jones opened the ninth for Atlanta with a single to left. Reds first baseman Hal Morris held Jones at first, and as Schourek delivered a pitch to McGriff, Morris stayed at the bag, protecting against any ball hit down the line.
His positioning cost the Reds. McGriff chopped a ball into the first base hole, and Morris couldn't reach the ball as he fell to his right. Jones hustled into third.
First and third and nobody out, and rather than run the risk of a big inning, Johnson ordered his middle infielders to position themselves for the double play. David Justice grounded to second baseman Bret Boone, who threw to Barry Larkin for a force play on McGriff. However, Jones scored the tying run.
Jeff Brantley relieved, and after filling the bases with two walks, he escaped the ninth without any more damage. The Reds and Braves went into the 10th tied 1-1, the 17th extra-inning NL playoff.
If Atlanta's advantage in this series is the brilliance of its starting pitching, then Cincinnati's is its exceptional speed. Seven Reds stole at least 10 bases during the regular season, and collectively they swiped 190, about twice as many as the Braves.
Beyond the stolen bases, they have the ability to take extra bases, force the issue. Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin led off the fourth inning by driving a ball curling down the left-field line. Atlanta's Ryan Klesko lurched into the corner after the ball.
Running at full speed, Larkin did not hesitate and pulled into third standing.
Even with Schourek throwing well, Braves manager Bobby Cox chose to have his infield play back. When Cincinnati left fielder Ron Gant bounced a ball off the artificial surface, into the shortstop hole, Larkin scored easily.
2& Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds
(Braves lead series, 1-0)
Day .. .. .. .. .. Site/Result .. .. .. .. Time
Yesterday .. .. .. Braves, 2-1 (11)
Tonight ... ... .. at Cincinnati .. .. ... 8:07
Friday .. .. .. .. at Atlanta .. .. .. ... 8:07
Saturday .. ... .. at Atlanta .. .. .. ... 7:07
Sunday* ... .. ... at Atlanta .. .. .. ... 7:07
Tuesday* .. .. ... at Cincinnati .. .. ... 8:07
Oct. 18* .. .. ... at Cincinnati .. .. ... 8:07
* -- If necessary