SAN DIEGO A few things were startlingly clear following the Atlanta Braves jerseys’ wild, come from behind 7 6 victory over the San Diego Padres jerseys last night in a remarkable Game 5 of the National League Championship Series:
The Braves jerseys may trail, 3 2, in the series, but they are ahead by every other measure including pitching matchups, home field advantage and especially momentum.
Michael Tucker is clutch.
John Smoltz is lucky.
Kevin Brown is not a relief pitcher.
And some inanimate object in the Padres jerseys’ locker room likely met an untimely end when this game was over.
Oh, how a game, a series, a season can turn on a single swing of the bat.
Tucker turned on a 3 2 splitter from Brown and launched a three run homer into the right field seats in the eighth inning, sending the Braves jerseys into delirium and sending the series back to Atlanta for Game 6 tomorrow.
“Everything,” Tucker said, “is going our way.”
Padres jerseys manager Bruce Bochy, in a wildly aggressive move, went wholesale baseball jerseys for the kill, bringing in Brown his stud hoss, his ace, his scheduled Game 6 starter to shut the door, a move that sent the crowd of 58,988 into delirium.
“I feel like I had my best guy out there with a two run lead,” Bochy said. “I’ll my take my chances there. It was a calculated risk, but I thought it was worth taking.”
Brown, who had only pitched in relief two other times in his career, mowed down three batters in the seventh, but walked Ryan Klesko to open the eighth and gave up an infield hit to Javy Lopez.
“We kept saying, ‘He’s not God,’ ” Lopez said.
And up came Tucker, who had already singled twice to drive in the Braves jerseys’ first two runs. After falling behind 3 0, Brown battled back to 3 2 before leaving a splitter at the knees.
Brown, known to bash in a water fountain here and a chair there, appeared inconsolable after being removed after the homer.
But Brown’s work isn’t finished. Though he threw 41 pitches, it was his regular day to throw in the bullpen. And it’s likely he would start a possible Game 7.
“I’m sure he is going to want to go in Game 6,” said Bochy, who is expected to opt for Sterling Hitchcock instead.
Add Tucker’s name to the list of unlikely postseason heroes for the Braves jerseys, joining the esteemed Charlie O’Brien, Mark Lemke, Mike Devereaux and Francisco Cabrera.
“I got a pitch to drive, and I didn’t miss it,” said Tucker, who drove in five runs after driving in 10 in the second half of the season.
But even then, the dramatics weren’t over.
First, Braves jerseys lefty John Rocker, allowed to hit for himself after Tucker’s homer, drew a walk off Donne Wall, then scored from first with a hard slide on Tony Graffanino’s double. It was a run the Braves jerseys would need.
Because Braves jerseys closer Kerry Ligtenberg gave up a two run homer to Padres jerseys pinch hitter Greg Myers in the ninth, trimming the lead to one. Here, Braves jerseys manager Bobby Cox did a little creative bullpenning of his own.
Still with no outs, Cox brought in Game 3 (and Game 7) starter Greg Maddux who closed it out, coaxing a grounder from Tony Gwynn (a lifetime .455 hitter against Maddux) to end the game.
When the game started, the Padres jerseys were in the role of the hunted and the Braves jerseys seemed to be gathering strength in their role of the hunter.
And they had their trustiest old gun slung over their shoulder.
Five other times in his career Smoltz had taken the mound with the Braves jerseys facing postseason elimination. The Braves jerseys won four of the five. Smoltz’s record in those games? 3 0 with a 1.02 ERA.