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Atlanta won't be forgotten

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2001


ATLANTA -- The Braves became the first franchise in any of the four major sports to win 10 consecutive division titles this season.

ATLANTA -- The Braves became the first franchise in any of the four major sports to win 10 consecutive division titles this season.

But as impressive as that is, it is not enough for those who have followed the franchise since the winning began in 1991.

"Say what you will, but (our success) will be talked about when we're done, when the run's over," said pitcher John Smoltz, who with Tom Glavine are the only players still around from the 1991 team. "I guarantee it won't happen again, unless the whole structure changes and they let more playoff teams in."

After Sunday's loss in Game 5 at Turner Field, the Braves have failed to advance past the NLCS four times (1993, '97, '98, 2001) and lost in the World Series four out of five times (1991, '92, '96, '99) during their decade-long span of success. Their World Series title came in 1995.

"The farther you go," Smoltz said, "the more chances you have for failure."

One other constant has been manager Bobby Cox. The 60-year-old ranks 12th all time with 1,708 wins and is in his 16th season with Atlanta. Yet he might have done his best job this season.

The Braves won 88 games, fewest among the playoff teams, and succeeded with a patchwork infield for much of the season.

"We've had great players here for the last 10 years," Cox said. "Anybody could have managed this club and done well.

"It's been a great organization. We've always had fine players come through here. This year has been a little bit more of a test for us probably, but we've had other years with just as many problems and succeeded."

ON HIS WAY: Albie Lopez had something he wanted to tell the Rays after Arizona won. "Thanks," he said.

Lopez was traded from Tampa Bay to the Diamondbacks on July 25. He is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in six innings this postseason.

"Coming into this year, I wasn't expecting to be where am I now," Lopez said. "I never thought I'd be here, especially with the team I started with."

GO FIGURE: If Arizona manager Bob Brenly was going strictly on numbers, Steve Finley should have been in the lineup to face Glavine on Sunday.

Finley is a .304 lifetime hitter against the lefty and was batting .333 with four RBI in the NLCS. Danny Bautista, a .154 lifetime hitter against Glavine, started. "Danny likes that ball over the plate where he can extend his arms," Brenly said. "Tom Glavine lives on that outside corner. The career numbers don't bear it out, but from what I've seen of Danny in this postseason, the way he's swinging the bat, I think this is our best chance to generate some numbers against Tom Glavine."

Bautista finished 1-for-2 with an RBI against Glavine, 1-for-4 overall.

NOT QUITE A QUAGMIRE: The four errors committed by the Braves in Game 4 tied a club record for the postseason. Two came on throws by Greg Maddux in the third and Rey Sanchez in the ninth.

Cox offered a possible reason normally sure-handed players couldn't get a grip on the ball.

Dew.

"The grass is extremely wet just because of the weather, the temperature," he said. "Not because we've watered it."

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