ST. LOUIS -- Brian Jordan played two roles last night at Busch Stadium. The first, to which he is becoming quickly accustomed, was that of late-inning playoff hero for the surprising St. Louis Cardinals. The second, one that came as a jolt to Jordan, was of concerned parent.
Moments after hitting an eighth-inning home run off Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Greg McMichael that led the Cardinals to a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series and to the brink of their first World Series appearance in nine years, Jordan was rushing to a local hospital with his 2-year-old son, Bryson.
According to Jordan's mother, Betty, who had come from Baltimore with her husband, Alvin, for the game, Bryson Jordan had fainted in the Junior Dugout, a family room at Busch Stadium, amid the excitement of his father's home run. Jordan had learned of his son's situation minutes after relief pitcher Dennis Eckersley had struck out Marquis Grissom to end the game. The Cardinals lead the series 3-1.
As he walked through an applauding crowd of well-wishers outside the clubhouse, a look of anguish spread across Jordan's face. He had just seen his son, who was conscious and being held by Jordan's wife, Pam. Jordan went to his locker, and dressed quickly before departing with family members and paramedics.
"We think he's OK. We just want to be safe," Jordan said.
It was the second postseason home run for Jordan, a former Milford Mill star. The first came against the San Diego Padres a little more than week ago, a two-run drive in the bottom of the ninth that broke a 5-5 tie and clinched a sweep for the Cardinals. Last night's home run was even more dramatic, and more significant.
It helped complete a comeback from a 3-0 deficit. The Braves had used home runs by Ryan Klesko and Mark Lemke, as well as brilliant pitching from Denny Neagle, to build their lead and silence the sellout crowd of 56,764.
The Cardinals can finish a shocking League Championship Series upset tonight, when Game 2 winner Todd Stottlemyre faces Cy Young favorite John Smoltz, who won Game 1 for the Braves.
If Jordan was the hero, Neagle was the near-hero. A 28-year-old left-hander from Gambrills, Md., who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in late August, Neagle was coasting along with a two-hit shutout through six innings. After getting the first two batters in the seventh, Neagle gave up a single to John Mabry and walked Tom Pagnozzi. Greg McMichael relieved.
St. Louis scored its first two runs on an opposite-field triple by 23-year-old rookie Dmitri Young. Young scored on when leadoff hitter Royce Clayton beat third baseman Chipper Jones' throw after a swinging roller.
Relieving Neagle seemed perplexing, but the pitcher later said that he agreed with Braves manager Bobby Cox's decision to remove him after 100 pitches. "Obviously you want to be able to finish, but you don't want to be selfish and end up hurting the team," Neagle said.
Neagle hadn't started a game since the last weekend of the regular season, and had pitched only one inning of relief in the playoffs. He said that when Cox came out to the mound, the manager asked if Neagle was tired. He said he was a little and Cox took the ball.
"We were hoping to get six or seven [innings] out of him. He walked Pagnozzi, who was only 2-for-20 against him. He couldn't get it over the plate. McMichael had been shooting lights out; he's been our ace [setup man]. He got beat tonight. That's the story of the ballgame."
McMichael had pitched sparingly in the postseason, in part because of tendinitis in his elbow that sidelined him for two one-week stints in September. Ron Gant, who had hit two home runs in Game 3, cracked a McMichael's first pitch to the warning track in left field but it was caught.
"The way the balls fly now, my heart jumps every time they go in the air," McMichael said.
Up came Jordan, who after getting three hits in the first two games had been hitless in his next seven at-bats. Jordan, 29, had attributed it to trying to do too much, as well as to what he thinks is a small hairline fracture on the top of his left hand. Before last night's game, he was wincing in pain as a doctor examined it.
Against McMichael, he sent a line drive over the left-field fence and into the bullpen. As he rounded the bases, he pumped his right fist into the air. The crowd erupted, as did fireworks in the night sky.
But the mood in the Cardinals' clubhouse was subdued. The game's hero had turned into a concerned parent at a local hospital.
Atlanta vs. St. Louis
(Cardinals lead series 3-1)
(Best of seven; games on Ch. 45)
Game 1: Atlanta 4, St. Louis 2
Game 2: St. Louis 8, Atlanta 3
Game 3: St. Louis 3, Atlanta 2
Yesterday: St. Louis 4, Atlanta 3
Today: at St. Louis, 7: 09
Wednesday: at Atlanta, 4: 15*
Thursday: at Atlanta, 8: 11*
Note: all game times are p.m.
* -- if necessary
Pub Date: 10/14/96