Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Braves Continue to Be a Giant Headache for San Francisco

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Braves Continue to Be a Giant Headache for San Francisco

Article excerpt

The pitch came directly at David Justice's head, and it appeared to be a nasty little message from Dave Righetti, something that suggested the battered, beaten Giants weren't going to take it any more.

Either that or Righetti was trying to hit the outside corner. One can't be certain about anything regarding the San Francisco Giants right now. They lost this game after Billy Swift appeared to be in vintage form. They lost after Barry Bonds singled in his first at bat, then homered, then singled twice more.

And when Justice picked himself off the dirt, he was about as intimidated as a Marine drill sergeant. Righetti threw a 3-0 pitch down the middle, and Justice hit it to China. Braves 8, Giants 1, and forget about it.

The Giants may yet win this division race, once they're through with Atlanta. That's the hidden beauty of the National League's expansion-tortured schedule - they're through with Atlanta after Thursday. But there's no question about the best team in baseball right now. It's the team everyone liked from the very start. The two leading contenders are playing each other head-to-head in the heat of summer, and the Giants are getting their behinds kicked.

The consolation beyond the final score was bittersweet, at best. Take Bonds, for instance. If he read Tuesday's New York Times, he saw the wisecrack, "Bonds has hit the postseason wall early . . . (and) for Bonds, postseason games are the food poisoning of the baseball year."

Let us not be hasty. Bonds has generally been a lethal stretch-drive hitter, with plenty of evidence from his Pittsburgh days, and he routinely crushed the ball Tuesday night while Greg Maddux handled most everyone else with dispatch.

But that, for Bonds, was the maddening part. Nobody else showed up. "We've to dig deep down and figure out what we're here for," Bonds said later. "We're not trying to catch them; we're the ones who should be in charge. But we have to start doing the little things - and that's scoring runs."

Swift, after a magical season of wins, glory and unhittable sinkers, suddenly had something to prove. The Braves tore into him like a batting-practice stiff at Candlestick last week. There was grim analysis of his strategy, claiming that he's particularly vulnerable on the first pitch, with revealing replays as proof.

Swift came out Tuesday night and threw the first pitch on a beeline for Otis Nixon's knees. The next two pitches arrived at roughly the same location, brushing Nixon back, and you wondered, "Is Swift going to walk this guy just to make a point?"

Not at all. He used the next three pitches to strike Nixon out. That launched a heady stretch of craftsmanship from Swift, apparently working at his very best. He had Fred McGriff trying to pull an outside pitch, Ron Gant grounding into a double play, and at one point, he set down eight successive batters. …

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