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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

DeRosa, Braves Put a Hit on Cubs in 5-3 Victory

The former football player delivers a two-run double in the eighth in Atlanta's 5-3 victory.

October 02, 2003|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves were so desperate for a win they called on John Smoltz in the eighth inning. That didn't work.

Instead, it took a little-known infielder with football running through his blood to keep Atlanta from the brink of another postseason meltdown.

Mark DeRosa, filling in for injured second baseman Marcus Giles, hit a two-out, two-run double in the eighth to lead the Braves past the Chicago Cubs, 5-3, Wednesday night.

Atlanta evened the best-of-five National League division series at one game apiece. Game 3 is Friday night at Chicago's Wrigley Field, with Greg Maddux starting for the Braves against Mark Prior.

The Braves' vaunted lineup was overshadowed by a guy who doesn't usually start.

DeRosa took over at second base for Giles, who had a deep bruise on his left leg after tumbling over first base in Game 1.

The Cubs walked Rafael Furcal intentionally to get to DeRosa, who made them pay by lining a 1-2 pitch from Dave Veres to the wall in left-center.

"You understand that they're intentionally walking Furcal to get to you," DeRosa said. "You try to use that anger."

Standing on second, the former Penn quarterback pounded his hands together.

"I hope the Cubs don't take offense. I meant nothing by it," DeRosa said. "I've got the football mentality still.

"We needed this game going to Chicago."

As an added bonus, Giles appeared as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and came through with a run-scoring single that put the Braves ahead, 3-2.

Anxious to protect the lead, Brave Manager Bobby Cox called on Smoltz in the eighth -- even though he missed nearly a month at the end of the season because of a sore elbow.

"You play this game with somewhat of a desperate mentality," Smoltz said. "We had to have this win."

The closer had worked two innings only three times all season, the last on July 23.

But Cox was also mindful that Smoltz never got a chance for a save in the 2002 postseason, when the Braves lost to the San Francisco Giants in the opening round.

The Cubs weren't intimidated by Smoltz, who has 100 saves over the last two seasons. Eric Karros and pinch-hitter Randall Simon hit consecutive singles before another pinch-hitter, Tom Goodwin, tied it up with a sacrifice fly.

"I didn't have my best stuff," Smoltz said. "These type of games are sometimes won more mentally than with stuff. Fortunately, I was able to make enough pitches in the ninth inning to get three outs."

Smoltz actually began his redemption in the bottom half of the eighth, getting down a bunt with two strikes after Vinny Castilla walked. It was Smoltz's second at-bat of the season.

"When I went up there, I really wanted to swing," he said with a grin. "But I knew I could get the bunt down."

Said Karros: "Obviously, you'd like to be up 2-0, especially after winning the first game. I still feel like we've got as good a chance as they do."

Brave starter Mike Hampton overcame a terrible start to pitch six solid innings before a Turner Field crowd of 52,743 -- the largest for a postseason game in Atlanta.

For the second night in a row, thousands of Cub fans boosted the standing-room-only turnout.

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