ATLANTA -- One out remained in Game 1 of the World Series last night, and Cleveland Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga waited with a foot just outside of the batter's box, trying to disrupt the rhythm of Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux. Delaying the inevitable, really.
The way Maddux pitched, holding a bat in your hands meant nothing. The right-hander pitched a two-hitter, outdueling Orel Hershiser and the Indians, 3-2. Atlanta first baseman Fred McGriff homered and the Braves scored their other two runs without benefit of a hit, getting only three hits in all.
Maddux's two-hitter was the first in World Series history since Oct. 14, 1971, when Pittsburgh's Nelson Briles shut down the Orioles. The Braves and Indians combined for just five hits, the fewest since the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers had five on Oct. 8, 1956 -- the day Don Larsen pitched his perfect game.
Maddux did not throw a perfect game, but he threw the perfect game, Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove thought. Maddux needed just 95 pitches to beat the explosive Indians.
"I don't think you'll ever see anybody pitch better than Greg Maddux pitched tonight," Hargrove said. "I've been in this game a long time, and that was as well a pitched game as I've ever seen. He pitched to both sides of the plate, up and down."
Maddux had prepared for the game by reading scouting reports, watching the last games of the American League Championship Series. And he talked to brother Mike Maddux, a reliever for the Boston Red Sox who pitched against Cleveland in the divisional playoffs. That helped, Maddux said.
L "Tonight was fun," Maddux said. "It was a pretty good game."
Pretty good. Sure.
"He totally dominated that game," Hargrove said. "I've never seen anything to that extent."
For most of the game, Hershiser was his equal. Hitters walked away from home plate shaking their heads with such regularity that you might've thought Baltimore-born umpire Harry Wendelstedt was calling a stadium-sized strike zone.
But more often than not, they were expressing disbelief at the respective brilliance of Maddux and Hershiser, who expertly mixed sinking fastballs with changeups and the occasional breaking ball -- most zipping across the outer limits of the strike zone.
They personified intensity, Maddux swearing loud enough in the first inning that his voice echoed above the sounds of 51,876 fans, and Hershiser interrupting his gaze on home plate long enough to wipe sweat off his forehead. The Braves hit three balls out of the infield in the first six innings, the Indians getting four balls out of the infield in the entire game. Four.
Snapshots of model pitching: Indians right fielder Manny Ramirez taking a called third strike from Maddux in the second inning, again in the fifth. Three weak grounders by Indians first baseman Eddie Murray, playing in his first World Series since 1983. Braves left fielder Ryan Klesko taking a two-strike fastball from Hershiser, who then slid back left to right to nip the inside corner for a strikeout. The Indians going hitless until third baseman Jim Thome slapped an outside fastball to left field in the fifth.
Figures that when the big inning did come for the Braves, it did not include a single hit.
Leading off the seventh, with the score tied 1-1, McGriff moved ahead on the count against Hershiser 2-0. Pitcher and batter battled to three balls and two strikes, and McGriff took ball four. Runner at first and nobody out. In this game, an offensive explosion.
Hershiser shot a couple of nasty glances at Wendelstedt during the at-bat, reference to a couple of close ball-strike calls that went against the pitcher. Hershiser rarely is unnerved, but he walked the next hitter, Braves right fielder David Justice, on four pitches.
Indians pitching coach Mark Wiley went to the mound, where Hershiser told him he was finished. As Hershiser waited for left-hander Paul Assenmacher to arrive, he said something to Wendelstedt; when the pitcher walked down the dugout steps, he slammed his glove down in disgust.
Pinch hitter Mike Devereaux walked to load the bases -- Assenmacher, too, was angry with Wendelstedt's version of the strike zone -- and reliever Julian Tavarez replaced him. Pinch hitter Luis Polonia grounded to short, where Omar Vizquel fumbled the ball and stepped on second for a force, supposedly; replay would show umpire Bruce Froemming blew the call, argued vehemently by Braves manager Bobby Cox.
But McGriff had scored the tie-breaking run on the play, and the ruckus created by Cox may have distracted the Indians enough that when Rafael Belliard dropped a squeeze bunt, Cleveland had no chance of catching Justice at the plate.
As he did in the first inning, Indians center fielder Kenny Lofton created a run against Maddux in the ninth, singling and scoring on a throwing error by McGriff. Not enough, however.
The Indians had scored first against Maddux. Without benefit of a hit, naturally.
Lofton chopped a grounder toward short, where Belliard bobbled the ball. Bobbles are unacceptable when Lofton is running. He was safe at first, and with Vizquel batting, Lofton swiped second easily. He stole third, and scored when Baerga grounded to second.
Atlanta's run was much less complicated. McGriff, tall and slender and powerful, swung at the first pitch Hershiser threw in the second inning. He knew Hershiser from many prior battles in the NL, and just wanted to be aggressive. McGriff knew immediately that he had homered, and the angry crack of the bat told just about everyone else in the park, including Hershiser. As many in the crowd began barking -- McGriff's nickname is Crime Dog -- McGriff flipped his bat and jogged casually around the bases. Just like that, a tie score.
The big hit in the ballgame, Cox called it. One of the only hits.
Cleveland Indians vs. Atlanta Braves
Last night: Braves, 3-2
Series: Braves lead 1-0
Game 2: Tonight, 7:20, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, chs. 11, 4
Starters: Indians' Dennis Martinez (13-6, 3.01) vs. Braves' Tom .. Glavine (16-7, 3.00)
Note: Pitchers' records include postseason