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Braves Set Record in Playoff Clincher

September 18, 1997|From Associated Press

Talk about a subdued celebration. No champagne. No hugs. Nothing.

The Atlanta Braves became the first major league team to clinch six consecutive post-season appearances with a 10-2 rout of the New York Mets on Wednesday night at Atlanta, and no one in the clubhouse was even aware of the historic moment.

"Really?" Ryan Klesko said. "I didn't know that. Thanks for telling me."

The Braves reduced their magic number to six over Florida for winning a sixth consecutive division title. Atlanta holds a six-game lead in the NL East over the Marlins, who split a doubleheader with Philadelphia.

The Braves, who have been in the playoffs every completed season since 1991 and are assured at least a wild-card berth, used a nine-run first to cruise past the Mets. THey also got a three-run homer from Jeff Blauser to back Greg Maddux's 19th victory.

Met starter Bobby Jones (14-9) failed to get an out and was removed after walking four of the eight batters he faced. The right-hander threw only 13 strikes in 34 pitches.

Atlanta matched its season high for runs in an inning, scoring nine for the third time after New York jumped to a 1-0 lead against Maddux (19-4).

Kenny Lofton and Blauser walked, then Jones made a low throw to second on Chipper Jones' grounder back to the mound for an error that loaded the bases. Fred McGriff walked to force in a run and Klesko followed with his 24th homer into the left-center seats to make it 5-1. With that grand slam, the Braves eclipsed the major-league record of 11, set last season by Seattle and Baltimore.

St. Louis 12, Chicago 9--Mark McGwire didn't have much to say about chasing Roger Maris' home run record. "What's there to talk about? How much more can you talk about hitting a home run," said McGwire, who hit his 53rd in the Cardinals' victory at Chicago. "You have to see the ball, hit the ball. It's not easy to do. It's the hardest thing to do in sports."

As for catching Maris, McGwire said: "It's a long shot right now. If I get there, I get there. If I don't, I've still had a pretty good year."

McGwire's 53 homers are the most since 1961 when Maris set the record with 61 and New York Yankee teammate Mickey Mantle hit 54.

"I'm glad we signed him yesterday before he got here," Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa said of the three-year, $28.5-million contract McGwire signed Tuesday.

McGwire's 105 home runs over the past two seasons are one shy of Jimmie Foxx's major league record for a right-handed batter, set in 1932-33. McGwire is only the second player to have back-to-back 50-homer seasons. Babe Ruth did it twice, 1920-21 and 1927-28.

Royce Clayton hit a two-run homer in a five-run first inning, Gary Gaetti added a three-run double in the seventh and Mike Difelice had a two-run homer in the ninth. Phil Plantier added three RBIs for St. Louis.

Rookie Matt Morris (11-8) won his third consecutive decision, giving up five runs on seven hits over seven innings and striking out seven.

Miguel Batista (0-5) took the loss in his shortest appearance in six starts.

Montreal 4, Cincinnati 1--Rondell White's three-run homer in the eighth inning led the Expos past the Reds at Cincinnati.

White homered off Stan Belinda (1-4) with two out. Montreal has lost seven of its last 11 games.

Ugueth Urbina got the last three outs for his 27th save in 32 chances.

Philadelphia 5-2, Florida 2-5--Rookie Tony Saunders earned his first victory since July 31 to help the Marlins beat the Phillies and salvage a split of their doubleheader at Miami.

Saunders (4-6), winless in his last seven starts, gave up four hits and one run in six innings. He entered the game 3-0 against the Braves but 0-6 against the rest of the National League.

Rookie Garrett Stephenson and closer Ricky Bottalico combined on a six-hitter in the opener.

The Marlins reduced the magic number for clinching their first playoff berth to seven. Florida is 5 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco in the wild-card race and six games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

Houston 8, Pittsburgh 4--The Astros took a big step toward winning their first division title since 1986, backing Shane Reynolds' eight-hit pitching with three homers at Pittsburgh.

The Astros have won their last two games by a combined score of 23-7 to open a 4 1/2-game lead in the NL Central over the upstart Pirates.

Reynolds (8-10) pitched 8 1/3 innings before being chased by pinch-hitter Dale Sveum's two-run homer in the ninth. He allowed four runs, walked one and struck out five.

Billy Wagner got the final two outs.





Player Team Performance Team's Result Larry Walker Colorado 2 home runs, 4 RBIs Loss M. Cummings Phila. 4 for 5, 1 RBI in 1st game Win Jeff Bagwell Houston 3 hits, 1 home run Win




Player Team Performance Greg Maddux Atlanta 6 innings, 4 hits, 0 walks for fourth straight start Andy Ashby San Diego Ties career high with 11 strikeouts Tony Saunders Florida 6 innings, four hits, one run in second game

Player Team's Result Greg Maddux Win Andy Ashby Win Tony Saunders Win


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