ATLANTA -- Florida catcher Charles Johnson proved at the National League Championship Series yesterday that he is human.
After 175 consecutive games without an error, two-time Gold Glove winner Johnson committed one in the first inning when he threw wildly while trying to retire the fleet Kenny Lofton, who had bunted.
Johnson had not erred since June 23, 1996, and had established major-league regular-season records by a catcher for consecutive errorless games in a season (123) and career (171).
"I knew it was going to be close," he said. "Basically, I told myself to make sure I was square and make a good throw. It was a tough play."
Johnson, considered one of the game's top catchers in only his third season, had set another record this season by handling 1,287 straight errorless chances.
"There was no added pressure at all because of the streak," he said. "It was just meant to happen and it happened. That's baseball. I was fortunate I went through a whole season without one. That takes a lot of luck."
Smoltz shows emotions
John Smoltz wears his emotions on sleeve and yesterday, the Braves' most successful postseason pitcher let them go.
"All I try to do is make sure each game that I pitch is like my last one," said tomorrow's starter. "That seems to work this time of year. Everybody's tired, so you pull everything you have from within and play with emotion. I'm an emotional player anyway. As soon as you lose that edge, you'll be answering questions, you don't want to answer."
Smoltz is 10-2 in the postseason, with the latest victory a three-hit, 11-strikeout gem against Houston.
He said he tried to take his game to a higher level at this time of year because "a regular-season game doesn't bring out a Game 3 atmosphere. Florida doesn't sell out when we play them in the regular season, so you have to elevate your level emotionally and mentally."
He also took a swipe at the local media, noting that "we have been written off so many times during the regular season with every kind of headline and article about the team isn't good enough. We just seem to keep going anyway. "
Rough day for Fernandez
Alex Fernandez is still looking for his first championship series win.
He went 0-2 in the 1993 American League series despite a 1.80 ERA and yesterday he just didn't have it against Atlanta.
"I felt pretty good in the bullpen, but when I got in the game, I didn't have velocity or location," said Fernandez, who beat the Braves twice during the regular season.
"I did not make quality pitches. I have no excuse. It was just an all-around bad day."
Fernandez was gone before the third inning ended, the victim of six hits and five runs.
"It's pretty simple," said Marlins manager Jim Leyland. "He left too many fat pitches out over the plate and they hit them."
Around the horn
Moises Alou was in Florida's original starting lineup yesterday, but was scratched for Jim Eisenreich. Alou hurt his right hamstring while trying to catch Ryan Klesko's home run Tuesday night. He was available to pinch hit. Manager Bobby Cox has tied Sparky Anderson for the major-league record of seven league championship series (one with Toronto, six with Atlanta).
Future pitching matchups for the Marlins-Braves series:
Game 3, at Florida, 8: 07 p.m. tomorrow
Atl.: John Smoltz (15-12, 3.02)
Fla.: Tony Saunders (4-6, 4.61)
Game 4, at Florida, 7: 37 p.m. Saturday
Atl.: Denny Neagle (20-5, 2.97)
Fla.: Kevin Brown (16-8, 2.69)
Game 5, at Florida, 4: 07 p.m. Sunday
Atl: Greg Maddux (19-4, 2.20)
Fla.: Al Leiter (11-9, 4.34)
Game 6, at Atlanta, 8: 07 p.m. Tuesday
Atl.: Tom Glavine (14-7, 2.96)
Fla.: Alex Fernandez (17-12, 3.59)
Game 7, at Atlanta, 8: 07 p.m. Wednesday
Atl.: Smoltz. Fla.: Brown
Pub Date: 10/09/97