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Millwood, Braves pull even at 1

BRAVES 7, GIANTS 3: The Atlanta starter goes six innings to salvage an early split at home.

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002


ATLANTA -- During their lengthy tenure with the Braves, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux have won six Cy Young Awards as the best pitchers in the National League.

Kevin Millwood won anonymity as a result.

But that cannot last much longer if the Braves right-hander continues to pitch as effectively and efficiently as he did in Game 2 of the National League division series.

Supported by an offense that unraveled San Francisco's starting pitcher Kirk Rueter by the fourth inning Thursday at Turner Field., Millwood allowed three hits during his part of a 7-3 win before 47,167.

"I knew it was a big game for us," he said. "We didn't want to go back to San Francisco down two games. I knew it was a big game. I was probably as excited or as pumped as I've ever been."

The best-of-five series is tied at 1 as the clubs head west for Game 3 on Saturday.

"We knew this was a must-win," said catcher Javy Lopez, who has homers in both games. "We needed this win."

Except for two mistakes that landed beyond the outfield wall, Millwood baffled the Giants during his six innings.

Scheduled to pitch Game 3 in San Francisco -- a blister on Maddux's throwing hand changed that -- he enjoyed stretches in which he retired five, seven and five batters in a row.

"We can start any three and the order is not that important," Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. "But he came through in the clutch. He was very emotionally high. I could tell that by the way he was warming up."

Millwood had the bottom of the Atlanta order to thank for such generous run support.

The Nos. 6-8 hitters -- Lopez, Vinny Castilla, Mark DeRosa -- drove in four runs and scored six times.

"It's very important to give (Millwood) more confidence," Castilla said. "He pitched a great game and we scored some runs for him."

The Braves led 4-1 by the end of the second inning, forcing Giants manager Dusty Baker to stir his bullpen earlier than expected.

Rueter, who entered with a remarkable 60-29 career road record, allowed one run in the first, three in the second and two in the fourth before getting pulled.

It matched his shortest outing of the season.

The Braves went ahead 3-1 on back-to-back homers to centerfield by Lopez, his second of the series, and Castilla.

They were the first back-to-back homers in the postseason for the Braves since Ryan Klesko and Brian Jordan, neither of whom is with the team, did it in Game 4 of the 1999 NL Championship Series against the Mets.

Leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal drove in the Braves' fourth run with a bloop single that fell between Lofton, second baseman Jeff Kent and shortstop Rich Aurilia.

After a 1-2-3 inning by Rueter in the third, Atlanta knocked him out of the game when Mark DeRosa hit a two-run single that pinballed around in the rightfield corner.

Reliever Manny Aybar, whom the Rays released in February, threw a passed ball that allowed DeRosa to score from third and make it 7-1. Aybar recovered and pitched two scoreless innings, striking out two.

San Francisco's first run came in the second when J.T. Snow, who hadn't homered in 148 previous at-bats, hit a outside pitch to the opposite field.

Before Aurilia's homer with two outs in the sixth, which made it 7-2, the Giants had gotten very little production out of the top of the lineup through their first 13 postseason innings.

The Nos. 1-4 hitters were hitting .160 with four hits and three runs.

Barry Bonds, this year's batting champion, is 2-for-8 this series after hitting a homer in the ninth. In 29 career postseason games, Bonds is hitting .200 with two homers and seven RBIs.

"This series is going to about how other people swing the bats," Giants catcher Benito Santiago said. "We have a good club that swings the bats and they have a good club that swing the bats.

"We're going to score some runs and they're going to score some runs."

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