ATLANTA -- There are two ways to look at the performances of rookies Jermaine Dye and Andruw Jones for the Atlanta Braves in last night's 15-0 demolition of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
Either they're a big part of the team's future, or last night was an interesting way to showcase their talents as trade bait. After what they did against the Cardinals, look for Dye and Jones to be here for a while.
They each had singles in the Braves' six-run first inning that put the champagne, if not the game, on ice. Jones, 19, of Curacao, had his first three hits of the postseason, including a monster two-run homer in the sixth inning.
But much of their future will have to do with what the Braves do with injured right fielder David Justice.
Dye, 22, was called up in May when Justice was lost for the season with a dislocated shoulder. Dye hit .281 with 12 home runs and 37 RBI in 98 games. He also struck out 67 times in 292 at-bats.
Jones, 19, was added to the roster in August after jumping from Class A Durham to Double-A Greenville to Triple-A Richmond in two months. Though he only hit .217 in 106 at-bats, he is viewed by most in the organization as a future star.
What the Braves will do in the off-season with Justice will determine what they do with Dye and Jones. Obviously, because of their ages, they still can be reserves next season. But not for long.
"We're really blessed with those two kids," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said before last night's game.
Neither Dye nor Jones had lit up St. Louis pitching until last night. Dye came into game hitting .206 (7-for-34). But the seven hits knocked in four runs. Jones, starting in place of Ryan Klesko against left-hander Donovan Osborne, was hitless in seven at-bats.
"I just took it as another game, another big game," said Dye. "But tonight was definitely a confidence boost for both of us."
Bielecki, Neagle ecstatic
Two players with local ties will be going to the World Series with the Braves. Neither was supposed to be here, but both are ecstatic about it.
Mike Bielecki, 37, a right-hander from Baltimore, was out of work two weeks before the end of spring training. Now he will be going to the World Series for the first time in his 12-year career, including two stints in Atlanta.
"I was looking at a forced retirement," said Bielecki, who worked an inning of relief last night. "My career was more or less over. I hoped to get another chance with this team and I did. It's worked out great."
It has worked out as well for Denny Neagle, who was traded to the Braves from the Pittsburgh Pirates in late August. Neagle, 28, a left-hander from Gambrills, Md., who pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed one hit in a 4-3 loss in Game 4, may start Game 2 on Sunday in New York. "This feeling is even better than I hoped for," he said.
The feeling might have been even worse for the two Cardinals with local ties. Former Milford Mill star Brian Jordan, the hero of Game 4 with an eighth-inning home run off Greg McMichael, went 0-for-3 last night. First baseman John Mabry, a left-handed hitter who grew up in Warwick, Md., was benched in favor of rookie switch-hitter Dmitri Young.
"That was not the way to go out, to get blown out in the seventh game," said Jordan.
Smith tips helmet
One player who probably won't be around when the Cardinals reassemble for spring training is Ozzie Smith. The shortstop announced his retirement, effective at the end of this season, and his pinch-hitting appearance in the sixth inning was likely to be the last of a Hall-of-Fame career.
"I've thought a lot about how to handle this," said Smith, who received two standing ovations from the crowd at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, one before and one right after he flied out to right fielder Jermaine Dye in foul territory, tipping his batting helmet on both occasions. "I wondered how it would end. The reception baseball has given me this year has been wonderful."
The Atlanta Braves joined this list of teams that have won a best-of-seven baseball playoff series after falling into a 3-1 hole:
Year Winner ...... Loser
1925 Pitt. (NL) .. Wash. (AL)
1958 N.Y. (AL) ... Milw. (NL)
1968 Det. (AL) ... St. L. (NL)
1979 Pitt. (NL) .. Orioles (AL)
1985 K.C. (AL) ... St. L. (NL)
AL Championship Series
1985 K.C. ........ Tor.
1986 Bos. ........ Calif.
NL Championship Series
1996 Atl. ........ St. L.
The Braves established LCS records last night -- breaking the marks they set three days earlier -- for most runs and most lopsided victories, and have been on the winning end of several such games in recent years:
Most runs, team, game
R Team ......... Opp. ..... Date
15 Atlanta ..... St. L. ... 10/17/96
14 Atlanta ..... St. L. ... 10/14/96
14 Atlanta ..... Phila. ... 10/7/93
13 Atlanta ..... Pitt. .... 10/7/92
13 Pittsburgh .. Atl. ..... 10/13/92
13 Chicago ..... S.D. ..... 10/2/84
13 New York .... Oak. ..... 10/14/81
Most lopsided victories
Date ....... Score
10/17/96 ... Atlanta 15, St. Louis 0
10/14/96 ... Atlanta 14, St. Louis 0
10/2/84 .... Chicago-N 13, S.D. 0
10/9/74 .... L.A. 12, Pittsburgh 1
10/7/93 Atlanta 14, Phila. 3
Pub Date: 10/19/96