ATLANTA — ATLANTA -- They played Auld Lang Syne at the final game in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium last night. They might as well have been playing the sad song for the Atlanta Braves, whose tenure as World Series champions is in serious jeopardy.
New York Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who admitted to being embarrassed by his first appearance in the World Series, allowed five hits in 8 1/3 nearly flawless innings to stop the Braves, 1-0, in Game 5 last night, out-dueling Braves ace John Smoltz.
"I haven't pitched like that all season," said Pettitte, who needed ninth-inning help from closer John Wetteland. "Tonight I just had a good sinker going, and that's just about all I threw."
He had struck out four and allowed only four hits as the Braves came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning. But Chipper Jones lined a double into the left-field corner to lead off, and he moved to third on Fred McGriff's grounder to first.
Yankees manager Joe Torre replaced Pettitte with Wetteland, to face the right-handed-hitting Javy Lopez. The Yankees' infield came in, and when Lopez grounded to third, Charlie Hayes smothered the ball and Jones had to stay at third. Ryan Klesko pinch-hit for Andruw Jones, and the Yankees intentionally walked the slugger.
Former Oriole Luis Polonia pinch hit for Jermaine Dye, fell behind 0-2 and then fouled off four pitches, before driving a ball deep to right. The Yankees' Paul O'Neill raced back, stretched up and caught the ball near the end of his glove. Several Yankees ran out to greet O'Neill to celebrate.
The Yankees left New York down two games to none, but they will return needing only one more victory to win the best-of-seven series. The Yankees won all three games in Atlanta, and have won eight consecutive road games in this postseason, a record.
Left-hander Jimmy Key will try to wrap up the title for the Yankees against four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux in Game 6 tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium, where they are only 2-4 this postseason.
"I've been telling everyone I don't know if we get too pumped up playing at home," Pettitte said. "We may need to bring it down a notch and just play our game."
In the dugout during the final two at-bats, Pettitte sat with a towel over his head, looking like he couldn't bear to watch. "I was just praying for John," he said. "I've been praying for him all year and I was hoping he'd do it one more time."
Every time the Braves make a mistake in this series, the Yankees pounce on it, the way ravenous dogs grab at a hunk of meat. Tom Glavine allowed a leadoff walk to start Game 3, and the Yankees scored. Atlanta shortstop Jeff Blauser made an error, the Yankees scored. Braves right fielder Dye couldn't catch a foul pop in Game 4 and the Yankees followed with three runs.
"It's a game of inches," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The breaks have not gone our way."
Smoltz struck out six of the first nine hitters he faced last night, blowing his fastball past several Yankees. They had one hit after three innings.
But Hayes, who has quietly replaced Wade Boggs at third base in this series and played very well, lined a ball into right-center, where Gold Glove winner Marquis Grissom and Dye converged on the ball.
Grissom yelled for the ball, glanced to see where Dye was, and looked up for the ball again. He appeared to be pulling away from the play, perhaps leery of running into Dye, when he reached down to make a basket catch. The ball bounced off Grissom's hands and away, and Hayes cruised into second on the two-base error.
The opportunistic Yankees struck again: After Bernie Williams grounded out to second and advanced Hayes to third, Cecil Fielder blistered a line drive to left for a double, scorching the wall and scoring Hayes with the game's first run.
The run stood up through the early innings, as Pettitte shackled the Braves. In Game 1, Pettitte had relied too much on his fastball, Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said, and didn't use his slider and changeup enough. Pettitte showed in the first two innings he had learned from his lesson and adjusted, striking out Atlanta's first two hitters on sliders.
In the first two innings, the Braves had four check-swing strikes, and indication of how unsure Atlanta seemed to be about whether Pettitte was throwing a fastball or a breaking ball.
Pettitte gave up single walks in the second, third and fourth innings, but the first two came with two outs and Pettitte pitched out of trouble, and after McGriff walked with one out in the fourth, Javy Lopez hit into an inning-ending double play. Chipper Jones finally got the Braves' first hit leading off the fifth -- and Pettitte immediately picked him off. The score remained 1-0.
Pettitte and Smoltz were, in one sense, matching pitch for pitch, shutting down the opponent. Quite literally, they were mismatched. Each team had required extensive relief work in Game 4, and needed their starting pitchers to last at least into the seventh or eighth or ninth inning.
If Braves manager Bobby Cox, knowing he had a tired and thin bullpen, had his way, then Smoltz would have pitched eight innings and closer Mark Wohlers would have pitched the ninth. No middlemen. The theme for both teams was economy.
But Smoltz pitched extravagantly. All the strikeouts were impressive, but they also took their toll, as evidenced in his pitch count: Smoltz threw a minimum of 13 pitches in each of the first four innings, 23 in the fifth inning, and 27 in the sixth, for a total of 114.
LTC Pettitte, conversely, never needed more than 15 pitches to get out of any of the first six innings, and required only 10 three times, for a total of 71 after six innings.
Pettitte was still relatively fresh in the sixth, but Smoltz led off with a ground single and Grissom, after failing to bunt Smoltz to second, singled as well, and Smoltz stopped at second. Nobody out.
Braves second baseman Mark Lemke, whose inability to get down a bunt in Game 3 hurt the Braves, managed to bunt in front of the mound. Pettitte came off the mound, reached down a bare left hand, caught the ball on low bounce and fired to third. His throw barely beat Smoltz sliding into third, a remarkable and gutsy play.
Chipper Jones then hit a chopper back to Pettitte, who turned and eased a throw to second to start a double play, killing the uprising.
Pub Date: 10/25/96