ATLANTA -- Tom Glavine joined the Atlanta Braves in 1987, when they were the laughingstock of baseball. He wore the uniform when the Braves found respectability, and lost the World Series in 1991 and 1992. Fitting, then, that he would be the one to pitch Atlanta to a world championship.
Glavine allowed one hit over eight innings, and was among the first to rush onto the field after Mark Wohlers closed out Atlanta's 1-0 victory in Game 6 of the World Series last night -- the first title for the Braves since 1957. Atlanta's only run came on a homer by David Justice in the sixth inning, off ex-Orioles reliever Jim Poole.
Glavine, who won Game 2 of the series, was named the World Series Most Valuable Player. The combined one-hitter was the first in World Series history.
"I told someone yesterday that a perfect scenario was if I got the win," Glavine said, "David Justice got the big hit, and Mark Wohlers got the save."
A great example of how much guts Glavine really has, thinking about a dream finish when many of his teammates fretted over the possibility of blowing games 6 and 7 and losing the World Series again. The nerves hit Justice so hard that he couldn't eat before Game 6.
But all day, Glavine focused on what he needed to do. The Indians had made dramatic adjustments in Game 5 and beaten the unbeatable Greg Maddux, but Glavine told himself repeatedly that he couldn't worry about that too much. Pitch to your strengths. They're home run hitters and they swing for homers; change speeds and keep them off-balance. That's your strength.
"There's no point in coming out in Game 6 of the World Series," he said, "and start trying to fool everybody."
Glavine mixed fastballs and changeups, kept almost everything down in the strike zone, and he struck out five in the first three innings. Through five innings, in the biggest game of his life, Glavine was pitching a no-hitter. Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said later he couldn't remember the Indians hitting one solid ball off the left-hander all night.
Problem was, the Braves couldn't get a run across. Glavine admitted that he sat in the dugout during the game and wondered if his effort would be wasted.
The players on both sides played this game differently, the managers managed differently. Every pitch meant something extra, every out seemed to present crossroads for the entire series. Tension with each batter. Terrific baseball.
One out into the first inning Mark Lemke singled off Cleveland starter Dennis Martinez, a garden-variety roller through the left side of the infield, and the phone rang in the Indians bullpen. Get Jim Poole up, pitching coach Mark Wiley said, get Chad Ogea up. Two batters into the game and Hargrove was establishing the fact that he would manage as if it were the ninth inning. There would be no meaningless at-bats, no concessions.
Poole and Ogea warmed up again in the second, after Martinez walked Justice and Ryan Klesko to open the inning. Martinez said several times during the World Series that his shoulder bothered him, that he felt stiff. On Friday, he didn't even sound sure that he would be able to start Game 6, and as he warmed up before the game, his elbow ached. Hargrove watched him closely in the second, trying to decide if it was time to call for help.
Javy Lopez, who beat Martinez with a homer in Game 2, popped out. Rafael Belliard slapped a sharp grounder up the middle, just to the shortstop side of second base. Surely a single. Surely.
But Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel got a great jump on the ball and reached down as he neared the base and gloved the ball. With his glove, he flipped to second baseman Carlos Baerga, who barehanded as he stepped on second, whirled and fired to first. From Vizquel's glove to Baerga's bare right hand and into the glove of first baseman Eddie Murray. An extraordinary play. A World Series play.
Martinez allowed a walk and a hit with two outs in the fifth, and with left-handed slugger Fred McGriff batting next, Poole finally got the call. He struck out McGriff on three curveballs, ending the mild rally.
Tony Pena blooped a single to center leading off the Cleveland sixth, the first hit off Glavine. No score, no out, runner on first. Bunt situation. Poole, who had never batted in a major-league game, turned in the on-deck circle and looked into the dugout, the question in his eyes: Do you want me to hit?
Hargrove, who will forever be second-guessed for his decisions in this World Series, had a number of options at his disposal. He could've used one of his position players, Alvaro Espinoza or Ruben Amaro, to pinch-hit and get a bunt down. He could've used Game 5 starter Orel Hershiser, regarded as one of baseball's best bunting pitchers when he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But Hargrove wanted Poole to pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning and face left-handed hitters Justice and Klesko. Hargrove had left nothing to chance in the first five innings, but he decided to gamble that Poole would get the crucial bunt down.
He didn't. Three pitches, three failed attempts, one out. Glavine's shutout continued. "Our pitchers have been practicing bunting for the last three weeks," said Hargrove.
Justice led off the sixth, thinking that he would not swing at breaking pitches, as McGriff had. Only fastballs. One ball and one strike and Poole threw a fastball about waist high, and Justice unloaded.
Cleveland right fielder Manny Ramirez ran back to the wall and looked up and the ball disappeared over the wall. Justice slowed to a trot, and after crossing home he pumped his fists. A little less dramatic than Kirk Gibson or Joe Carter, but no less effective.
Glavine shut out the Indians through the eighth, but third baseman Jim Thome had hit a deep fly. Glavine felt he was losing control of his off-speed stuff. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox walked up to him in the dugout and asked Glavine if he wanted to pitch the ninth. It was Glavine's call.
"In that situation," Glavine said, "you've got to put your ego aside . . . I was tired."
Not so tired, though, that when Baerga flied out to center fielder Marquis Grissom to end the game, Glavine couldn't run onto the field to celebrate something that had been a long time coming for he and the Atlanta Braves.
Hits and misses
On the field: Dennis Martinez felt pain in his elbow as he warmed up before last night's game, but he pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings before being relieved. "I was hurt," he said. "My elbow was stiff, but I was able to make good pitches when I was in a jam. I was lucky they did not score runs when I was in a jam. I can't second-guess being relieved."
In the dugout: In Game 5, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox yanked shortstop Rafael Belliard for a pinch hitter in a situation when the Braves were two runs down and had a chance to get back into the game. Last night, Belliard was due to hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fourth, the game scoreless. Cox let Belliard hit, preferring to keep his best defensive shortstop on the field. Belliard flied out, but made a tremendous running catch on a pop foul by Kenny Lofton leading off the ninth.
In the clubhouse: "This club should not be embarrassed," said Indians pitcher Orel Hershiser. "All six games were [closely played] games and a swing of the bat at any time could have made a difference."