If there is one thing Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox knows by now, eight years into the Braves' run of success, it is how to gauge his starting pitchers, upon whose arms the Braves have built their foundation.
Cox knew Tom Glavine was just getting over a debilitating case of the flu when he started Game 3 of the World Series tonight; he also knew Glavine was throwing well, and had an unusually low pitch count through seven innings. So Cox sent Glavine back in for the eighth inning.
It proved to be a poor decision. Glavine, trying to protect a two-run lead, gave up a single to Joe Girardi and a two-run homer to Chuck Knoblauch that barely cleared the fence--and Brian Jordan's glove--in right field.
By the time Cox went out to yank Glavine, it was too late: The game was tied. Two innings later, Chad Curtis won the game with a solo homer off Mike Remlinger.
"I felt fine" starting the eighth, Glavine said. "A pop fly to right [by Knoblauch] turned into a two-run homer. Anywhere else, it would be an out."
Said Cox: "He was throwing great. He didn't want to come out. I asked him if he was tired, and he said no. We thought he would cruise through it. . . . We got beat on a pop-up to right, a Yankee Stadium home run."
Before the game, Cox said he was hoping to get seven innings out of Glavine, who was scheduled to start Game 1 on Saturday night but had to be scratched when he came down with an acute case of the flu. Tonight, when Glavine made it through the seventh--in which he gave up a solo homer to Tino Martinez--he still had thrown only 72 pitches.
Ten days ago, in Game 3 of the NLCS, Cox made a different decision in a similar situation. With the Braves leading the New York Mets 1-0 after seven innings, Cox brought in Remlinger to pitch the eighth, then closer John Rocker for the ninth. It worked to perfection: two scoreless innings for a narrow victory.
Over six innings tonight, Glavine was in classic form, working the outside corner with his fastball and change-up. His strikeout of Derek Jeter in the third inning with a runner at second base was typical--Glavine went outside, outside, outside, outside to get ahead. Then, just as Jeter was creeping up to cover the outside corner, Glavine busted him inside with a fastball for a called third strike.
Through six innings, all Glavine had given up was an unearned run in the first--started by a two-base error on Jordan--and a solo homer by Curtis in the fifth. But with one out in the seventh, Martinez launched a towering home run to right field on a hanging slider--according to Glavine, the only mistake he made. Glavine made it out of the inning, but now it was 5-3.
The patient, resourceful Yankees hitters had their most success against Glavine going the other way--riding all those outside fastballs to the opposite field. Curtis's first home run went to the opposite field. So did Knoblauch's sailing drive to right that Jordan misplayed in the first, and the RBI single to left by Paul O'Neill that scored him.
And that's what Knoblauch did again in the eighth with Girardi on first. Knoblauch smashed an outside fastball off the glove of a leaping Jordan and over the fence.