Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Maddux a Marvel as Braves Win Series Opener 3-2

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Maddux a Marvel as Braves Win Series Opener 3-2

Article excerpt

Saturday night's World Series opener was the first Series game in 728 days because of the baseball strike last season. There will be no better pitching performance in the next 728 days.

Atlanta's Greg Maddux, given a full week of rest because of an abbreviated league championship series, simply defined pitching, hurling the first two-hitter in 24 years of World Series competition. Cleveland veteran Orel Hershiser had a pretty good grasp of the art for six innings, too. But a wild streak cost him his confidence and ultimately two runs in the seventh as the Braves beat the Indians 3-2.

Maddux, the soon-to-be Cy Young Award winner for the fourth year in a row, gave up only two singles - one in the fifth to Jim Thome and a ninth-inning hit by Kenny Lofton. He threw the Gibsonesque low total of 95 pitches, walking no one and permitting only four balls to be hit to the outfield.

Both Cleveland runs, scored by Lofton, were unearned. Lofton left his calling card by stealing two bases and prompting first baseman Fred McGriff to fire wildly in the ninth inning as the Indians runner tried to advance two bases on a groundout.

Lofton scored on the play, but Maddux wrapped up his victory by retiring Carlos Baerga on a foul fly. The five hits by both teams tied a World Series record for fewest hits by two teams.

Cleveland hadn't been held to fewer than three hits in any previous game this season.

"I've been around this game for a long time," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said, "and that's as masterful job of pitching as I've ever seen. He is everything you would want a pitcher to be. I don't think you will ever see anybody pitch better than Greg Maddux did."

Hershiser had given up only three hits before he walked McGriff, who earlier had homered, on a full-count pitch to start the seventh. Twice during that count, at 2-0 and 3-1, Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel moved to the second-base side of the bag, with the intelligence that McGriff tends to pull more on those counts.

But that strategy was rendered moot when McGriff walked and then Hershiser passed Dave Justice on four pitches. Pitching coach Mark Wiley went to the mound and was stunned to hear Hershiser tell him that he was tired.

"Orel caught him off guard," Hargrove said. "He told Mark that he was done."

Paul Assenmacher relieved, and even though pinch-hitter Mike Devereaux ostensibly was at the plate to bunt, he, too, walked on a 3-1 pitch, filling the bases.

Righthander Julian Tavarez relieved and was confronted by pinch-hitter Luis Polonia, who grounded to Vizquel, playing at double-play depth.

The Indians infielder had been a fielding marvel, notably with some barehanded stops, in previous postseason play. But this time he gloved the ball and tried to shovel it to second. He bobbled the ball, regained control and then raced to second to beat Devereaux as McGriff scored. …

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