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Sheffield's Injured Hand Is 'Not Good'

October 04, 2003|From Times Wire Services

CHICAGO — Just what the Atlanta Braves didn't need, more bad news for their already struggling offense.

Gary Sheffield got plunked in the left hand with a pitch by Mark Prior in Friday night's 3-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of their National League division series.

Sheffield stayed in the game, but his hand was visibly swollen afterward, and it hurt so much he had to dress with one hand.

"It's not good," he said.

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The timing of Sheffield's injury couldn't be worse for the Braves.

After leading the NL in every major hitting category this season, the Braves are barely showing up on offense. They're hitting .191 in the series, with Sheffield, Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones a combined three for 30.

And now they have a must-win game, down 2-1 in the best-of-five series. At rowdy Wrigley Field, no less.

"We've just got to come back [today]," Robert Fick said. "This team's not going to quit."

But history isn't exactly on the Braves' side. They're 0 for 4 in their last four elimination games, dating to the 1999 World Series.

"There's no time for us to feel sorry for ourselves," said Marcus Giles, one of the few Braves doing anything at the plate. "We've got to be ready for tomorrow."

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The Braves have won 12 straight division titles, but haven't been to the World Series since 1999. This season, Atlanta won 101 games, tying the New York Yankees for the best record in the majors.

But the numbers haven't meant anything in the postseason.

"We're just in a little funk, I guess," Fick said. "We can't get anything going. We can't get anybody on base. We can't get big hits."

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Cub catcher Damian Miller, who had a first-hand look at every pitch Prior threw, had nothing but high marks for the young right-hander.

"He's a freak," Miller said. "When you're 23 years old and you can do what he can do against that lineup, you're pretty good."

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As the Cubs were being introduced about 15 minutes before the first pitch, a hard rain began to fall at Wrigley Field, sending the grounds crew scrambling to get the tarp on the field. The start was delayed 31 minutes.

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