The Braves will send out Steve Avery (19-9, 2.76 ERA) to face Scott Erickson of the Twins (15-9, 3.51 ERA)... This game alone, makes me think about 'what could have been' when it came to Avery's career; Avery led my the National League with 19 wins in this alternate 1992 season.
Avery in real-life, went 47-25 during a three-year stretch (1991-1993) with a 3.17 ERA, 391 K, 1.199 WHIP in 667.1 combined innings. He was only 21-to-23 years of age, during this stretch, in which he also sported a 122 ERA+... and although he would have a couple huge moments in the 1995 playoffs (Game 4 - NLCS vs Cincinnati & Game 4 of the World Series vs. Cleveland), 1994 was the beginning on the end, a derailed career due to a 1994 arm injury.
I still have his 1989 Topps Rookie Card to this day, which is actually (although not worth anything) one of my favorite Baseball rookie cards that I own; He is pictured in his Kennedy High School (Taylor, Michigan -- just southwest of Dearborn) uniform. It was one of those cards that you would believe that this could be you someday, I was a 12 year-old when I pulled this card out of the pack.
Back to the project now...
GAME 1 (at Minnesota)
The Metrodome will host Game 1 of this highly-anticipated match-up, with two key injuries on both sides, Ron Gant (.261, 29 HR, 96 RBI & 32 steals) of the Braves, torn his meniscus (during Game 5 of the NLCS) and will be out for the remainder of the postseason, while Shane Mack (.338, 26 HR, 127 RBI & 13 steals) of the Twins, will likely miss the World Series as well with a hamstring strain. Tony Tarasco was added to the playoff roster for Atlanta in Gant's place.
All was quiet the first few innings until Lonnie Smith, the designated hitter, smacked a three-run HR (off Erickson), following a throwing error by Twins' third baseman Marty Cordova on the previous play (all in the 4th Inning).
Minnesota would not collect their first hit, until 3.2 innings through, with a single to center by Cordova.
In a humorous moment, after a Chili Davis single, Kent Hrbek successfully laid down a bunt (in the 5th), and moved Davis up to second -- none of it paid off as the Twins still trailed, 3-0.
Things got interesting in the bottom of the 8th, as Chuck Knoblauch batted in Pedro Munoz on a two-out double off-the-wall in deep center, trailing the Braves by only two runs (3-1); Knoblauch smacked the double off of setup man Greg McMichael, who came in after the one-out walk that Munoz drew from Avery. The Braves decided to intentionally walk Kirby Puckett, and face the aggressive Marty Cordova, who is known to swing at bad pitches; Cordova ends up hitting into a force to end the inning.
Bottom of the 9th, the Braves call on their closer Alejandro Pena, who closed 40 of 47 save opportunities this season. Brian Harper leads off with a single to center. Chili Davis hits into a fielder's choice, as Harper is out at second... which made me scratch my head, why did they not pinch-run for the slow Harper instead, in a game that runs are hard to come by. Pena walks Kent Hrbek, and now there are runners (slow runners I might add) on 1st & 2nd with one out... We need the Braves to get the Twins to hit into a game-ending double play here.
The Twins call on pinch-hitter, lefty Matt Lawton (.358, 3 HR & 27 RBI in 190 AB); Lawton, like Brad Radke, got his MLB debut three years early. I'm calling on my lefty Kent Mercker (5-2, 2 SV, 1.24 ERA, 1.24 WHIP & 62 K's in 73.1 innings) who had an amazing season for the Braves, his real big flaw is the walk (35 BB).
Lawton does what I was hoping for, by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play... Braves win a nail-biter!
Avery's career postseason (1991-1992) is a notch better: 4-0, 1.61 ERA, 37 K & 8 BB in 50.1 innings, with a 0.95 WHIP, 250 ERA+ & 1.9 WAR.
GAME 2 (at Minnesota)
The Twinkies will have to bounce back after a tough loss that watched their team struggle to collect 6 hits, and were still within reach to tie or win the game at the end... only to still lose the game.
The Braves will be sending out southpaw Charlie Leibrandt (13-11, 4.27 ERA) to face off against Kevin Tapani (18-7, 3.94 ERA). Both teams head out with the same lineups; Lonnie Smith is batting .500 (5-for-10, HR & 4 RBI) in limited play this postseason, as he was the difference maker along with Steve Avery in Game 1.
Now it's Game 2, the board has been cleared off, new script...
Terry Pendleton followed with a single, while Dave Justice draws a walk, all with no outs for Sid Bream, but the Twins eventually get out of what could have been a huge inning.
Top of the 3rd, with runners on 1st & 2nd, two outs -- Lonnie Smith strikes again, with an two-run double (scoring in Justice), Dave Valle would hit in Smith, to make it 5-0 Braves.
Meanwhile, while the Atlanta Braves have 7 hits through 3 innings, the Minnesota Twins are struggling to collect hits, with one.
Top of the 4th - Chipper Jones collects his 3rd hit, a lead-off double, to go along with a single & home run (a triple away from the cycle). Sid Bream would drive in Jones on a two-out double, as Deion Sanders would add to the Atlanta hit parade (single), driving in Bream, giving the Braves a commanding 7-0 lead.
Bottom of the 4th - Marty Cordova would hit out a Leibrandt mistake-pitch to put a run on the board.
This game would be the tale of two games...
Charlie Leibrandt had good stuff, and allowed only 3 hits (2 hits by Cordova) through 7 innings of work, with 3 K's. The Twins appeared to have been shut down for a second consecutive night, the Twins would score a cheap run in the bottom of the 8th, trailing 8-2; Atlanta would add an insurance run (which didn't seem necessary) in the top of the 9th, to give the Braves a 9-2 lead.
Bottom of the 9th, seemed normal, I decided to give Marvin Freeman some work, he allowed a hit, and had two outs recorded. I decided to give Mike Bielecki some work, and although he was allowing some hits, I never thought it would become a problem, I was one out away. Called in Alejandro Pena, no cigar, before I knew it... Marty Cordova delivered a game-tying two-out, two-run double, setting up Brian Harper's walk-off single.
A total collapse of the bullpen, allowing 9 hits & 9 runs in two innings!
Atlanta could be returning home to Atlanta with a 2-0 series lead, but it's tied up now at 1-1.
|Harper: Walk-off hero in bizarre game.|