We all knew the Atlanta Braves could pitch. Where in the world did this hitting come from?
Something unleased a fury in this team, and now they’re in the World Series.
The Braves posted the biggest blowout in postseason history, a 15-0 humiliation of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League championship series Thursday night that completed a remarkable rally from a 3-1 deficit.
“This is incredible,” said John Smoltz, who will start Game 1 on Saturday night in New York against the Yankees. “No one expects this at this time of year.”
Pitcher Tom Glavine’s bases-loaded triple highlighted a six-run first inning, and 52,067 crazed fans spent the rest of the evening partying as the Braves earned a chance to defend their championship.
The Braves have reached four of the last five World Series, making it this time by outscoring the Cardinals 32-1 in three straight games. Atlanta outhit them 46-17 in that span, and the only run St. Louis scored came on a wild pitch.
“They’ve proved it to us,” Cardinals reliever Dennis Eckersley said. “They didn’t have to beat the hell out of us to prove it to us, that’s for sure.”
Eckersley might have had something to do with it.
Maybe it was his fist-pumping after a win in Game 4. Maybe it was knowing that St. Louis put champagne on ice. Maybe it was manager Bobby Cox’s little pep talk.
Whatever it was, it pushed the right buttons for the Braves.
“You wouldn’t expect this many runs from any team,” Cox said. “You would never imagine it. I thought every game here would be very tight, low scoring. A couple of balls fell, and then it just steamrolled.
“But when we were down (3-1), we felt like we could reel off three. You always worry, but there’s an awful lot of talent on this team,” he said. “We had a lot of confidence. Not only did we pitch well. We hit well, too.”
After Atlanta good-luck charm Francisco Cabrera threw out a first ball - and before the fans broke into singing “New York, New York” - Glavine shut out St. Louis on three hits over seven innings. He got support from two-homers by NLCS MVP Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff and Andruw Jones - at 19, Jones surpassed Mickey Mantle as the youngest player to connect in a postseason game.
“The loss stings a lot because of the type of game it was,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “A lot of guys are bothered by it.”
Glavine finished off the Cardinals to even his career postseason record at 7-7.
“I don’t think we expected to dominate like this,” Glavine said. “Fourteen runs one night, 15 the next, you don’t expect that.”
The Braves became the eighth team out of 48 to overcome a 3-1 deficit, and the first ever to do it in the NLCS.
St. Louis had never lost an N.L. playoff series, going 4-0 until running into Atlanta.
They also added to their legacy of playoff comebacks - they won the last two games of the 1991 NLCS to beat Pittsburgh, then came back the next year to defeat the Pirates in Game 7 when Cabrera’s two-out, two-run single capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“What happened this year against the Cardinals, that wasn’t new for us,” said Lopez, who hit .542 (13 for 24) in the series.
xxxx World Series schedule All games on Fox (*-if necessary) Saturday: At New York, 5:01 p.m. Sunday: At New York, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday: At Atlanta, 5:15 p.m. Wednesday: At Atlanta, 5:18 p.m. Thursday: At Atlanta, 5:15 p.m.* Oct. 26: At New York, 5:01 p.m.* Oct. 27: At New York, 4:35 p.m.*