'Laundry list' of odd events spurs Braves' Game 4 fold Wohlers' hanging slider was most glaring mistake; World Series sidelight

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ATLANTA -- Braves general manager John Schuerholz stood on the field yesterday and replayed some of the bizarre moments from Atlanta's 8-6 loss in Game 4 of the World Series on Wednesday night. The New York Yankees' two swinging bunts. A missed double-play ball. An umpire obstructing a Braves outfielder and possibly preventing him from making a catch.

"You could make a laundry list of it all," said Schuerholz.

But what he remembers most of all is the pitch that Mark Wohlers threw to Jim Leyritz in the eighth inning, a hanging slider that Leyritz bashed over the left-field wall for a three-run homer, tying the game at 6-6

Fox showed that pitch again and again, in slow motion, and Schuerholz watched in his private box. The replay "shows each and every spin of the pitch, and it seemed like it would never reach the plate. You wish it never did."

There were dozens of small crossroads that led to the Yankees' victory in 10 innings. The Braves led 6-0 as the sixth inning began, and seemed to have the game in control. Derek Jeter, leading off against Denny Neagle, lifted a high pop down the right-field line, and first baseman Fred McGriff, second baseman Mark Lemke and right fielder Jermaine Dye converged on the ball in foul territory.

But as Dye closed on it, he had to push past right-field umpire Tim Welke, taking a wide route to the ball, and then overran the play. The ball dropped untouched, and Dye stood and glared at Welke.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox sharply criticized Welke after the game, and again yesterday. "I don't know what the excuse is," Cox said. "I'm sure he [Welke] feels bad about it. It was a routine out."

Given another chance, Jeter singled, and the Yankees went on to score three runs. But the inning ended with Atlanta holding the momentum, after reliever Mike Bielecki struck out three in a row.

Bielecki started to tire in the seventh, and with the Braves' bullpen lacking depth, Cox called on his closer, Wohlers, in the eighth inning. Cox defended his decision, saying he often had started Wohlers in the eighth to finish games.

Charlie Hayes swung at a fastball and topped it down the third-base line, where the ball died in fair territory, a single. Darryl Strawberry slapped a single to left. The potential tying run would bat.

Mariano Duncan hit a grounder to shortstop Rafael Belliard, who had just replaced Jeff Blauser for defensive purposes. If he had fielded the ball cleanly, Belliard would have had an excellent chance for a double play. But he fumbled it, and could only get a force at second.

Wohlers had to face Leyritz next, and the count went to two balls and two strikes. Leyritz took a couple of good hacks at Wohlers' fastball, and Wohlers decided to throw him a slider. But it spun high, and Leyritz became a part of World Series lore, tying the game.

"I lost it, I blew it," Wohlers said. "I get a lot of money to shut it down when Bobby gives me the ball. I just didn't do it."

The Braves had runners on first and second with one out in the ninth against Mariano Rivera, and Yankees manager Joe Torre called on left-hander Graeme Lloyd to pitch to left-handed McGriff.

Lloyd threw a fastball away, and McGriff hit a hard smash -- right to shortstop Jeter, who started a 6-4-3 double play.

Left-hander Steve Avery took over for the Braves in the 10th, only his third appearance of the postseason, and he retired Leyritz to start the inning. Torre, figuring the Yankees probably wouldn't score, sent Lloyd in to bat rather than use Wade Boggs as a pinch hitter.

Torre was conceding the inning, so he could have Lloyd pitch to start the bottom of the 10th and prevent the Braves from using the left-handed hitting Ryan Klesko as a pinch hitter against Yankees closer John Wetteland.

Lloyd grounded out, but Tim Raines walked and Jeter singled, and with switch-hitter Bernie Williams due to hit, Cox went to talk to Avery. Williams is a much better right-handed hitter than left-handed, and Cox could have brought in reliever Brad Clontz to make Williams bat left-handed. Instead, Cox left Avery in the game, and ordered him to intentionally walk Williams and load the bases.

"It was the smart thing to do," said Cox. "He carried them [the Yankees] in Texas, he carried them in Baltimore."

Torre told Boggs -- his last available position player -- to bat for Andy Fox. As Boggs stepped out of the dugout, teammate Jimmy Key yelled, "Keyhole him!"

In other words, make him throw strikes. Avery got ahead 1-2, then threw a pitch close. Ball two. Boggs took two more, and forced in the run. An error by Klesko at first base allowed the final run to score.

After Lloyd and Wetteland closed out the Braves in the 10th -- the game finished at 12: 36 a.m. EDT, after 4 hours and 17 minutes, the longest World Series game in history -- Cox walked into the empty Atlanta clubhouse and swore out loud, a short and angry obscenity.

Opportunity lost.

Pub Date: 10/25/96

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