Cox calls meeting, Braves get message Reminds team it has won three straight before; NLCS notebook; NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ST. LOUIS -- Team meetings in the middle of the summer usually don't amount to much, forgotten in the blur of games that follow. But when you call a team meeting before what could be your team's last game of the season, and your team is the defending world champion, that carries a little more significance.

Or does it?

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox called a meeting before last night's 14-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, and his team finally played up to the level -- and above -- most expected from it going into this best-of-seven National League Championship Series. But Cox, as is his nature, didn't make a big deal about it after the most lopsided victory in LCS history.

"I had a short meeting, nothing real big," said Cox.

"It wasn't like, 'Let's all have a nice winter.' It was more like I expect to play seven to 10 more games."

Asked what the theme of his meeting was, Cox said, "I told them we've had three-game winning streaks before and we can do it again."

Polonia jump-starts Braves

Actually it was former Oriole Luis Polonia's pre-game ritual of rolling the bats that might have jump-started the Braves' offense.

Though Polonia was unsuccessful in his only at-bat, others certainly benefited from it. The most obvious was Fred McGriff, who after getting only one hit in his first 13 at-bats against the Cardinals went 2-for-6 with a home run. "I hope it helped," said Polonia. "But I think we would have woke up anyway."

The top four batters in the lineup had 10 of the team's 22 hits.

Torre could meet ex-team

Cardinals manager Walt Jocketty, the man who fired Joe Torre last year, said last night that the manager's laid-back personality that didn't work in St. Louis got the job done in New York.

"Sometimes a guy will be a perfect match for one team and not for another," said Jocketty.

If the Cards hang on, Torre would become the first manager in history to face the team that fired him in the next season's World Series.

Winfield homecoming

There will be a homecoming of sorts at Yankee Stadium for Dave Winfield when the World Series begins in the Bronx on Saturday night.

As the Yankees return to the World Series for the first time in 15 years, Winfield returns to the scene of one of his most unpleasant major-league memories.

Winfield, now retired and an analyst for the Fox Network, went 1-for-22 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner made some disparaging remarks about Winfield the following spring -- he called Winfield "Mr. April" -- and their often tumultuous relationship seemed to go downhill from there.

"I've been back lots of times and I have no problems with him," said Winfield.

Miscellaneous

John Smoltz passed Whitey Ford for the career lead in postseason strikeouts with 98. Danny Jackson, who gave up seven hits and three runs in three innings for the Cardinals last night, is the first pitcher to appear in the LCS with five different teams. He pitched earlier in his career for the Royals, Reds, Pirates and Phillies. The loss ended the Cardinals' nine-game home postseason winning streak.

Pub Date: 10/15/96

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