The 1998 NLCS returned to Atlanta and Turner Field on October 14 with the Atlanta Braves looking to win their third straight game and force a Game 7. Unfortunately, Atlanta’s offensive doldrums would return and a promising season would come to an end that was perhaps earlier than expected.
Tom Glavine would be on the mound for the Braves. Glavine got the start in Game 2 opposite Kevin Brown and allowed six hits and one run over six innings. He uncharacteristically walked six batters in that game, which ran his pitch count up. He did a good job of minimizing the damage but wasn’t exactly sharp.
Bruce Bochy’s gamble of bringing in Brown in relief in Game 5 meant that left-hander Sterling Hitchcock would get the start in Game 6 on three days rest. Hitchcock started Game 3 and held the Braves in check allowing three hits and one run over five innings. However, it was still a risky move by Bochy because Hitchcock hadn’t been all that good during the regular season.
1998 NLCS Lineups Game 6
|1||Quilvio Veras 2B||1||Walt Weiss SS|
|2||Tony Gwynn RF||2||Gerald Williams RF|
|3||Greg Vaughn LF||3||Chipper Jones 3B|
|4||Ken Caminiti 3B||4||Andres Galarraga 1B|
|5||Jim Leyritz C||5||Javy Lopez C|
|6||Wally Joyner 1B||6||Andruw Jones CF|
|7||Steve Finley CF||7||Danny Bautista LF|
|8||Chris Gomez SS||8||Tony Graffinino 2B|
|9||Sterling Hitchcock P||9||Tom Glavine P|
With Hitchcock on the mound, Bobby Cox again went with his right-handed lineup, as he had done for most of the season against left-handed pitching. I don’t want to question the decision too much as I am generally in favor of platooning hitters but it must be said that the Braves trotted out both Danny Bautista (73 wRC+) and Tony Graffanino (57 wRC+) in an elimination game. Graffanino didn’t even hit lefties better than righties in 1998, and neither player actually hit lefties well in general.
For the Padres, Greg Vaughn returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Game 1. Jim Leyritz started behind the plate and hit fifth. Bochy did elect to keep Wally Joyner in the lineup against Glavine, but dropped him a spot in the batting order to sixth.
1st Inning - Braves 0, Padres 0
Glavine’s evening didn’t get off to a good start as he walked Quilvio Veras on four pitches to begin the game, but a double play ball off the bat of Gwynn erased the baserunner. Vaughn followed with a fly out to center to end the inning.
Weiss returned to the starting lineup for the first time in two games and struck out swinging to get things started in the home half. Hitchcock then retired Williams on a grounder to Joyner and struck out Chipper for the final out.
2nd Inning - Braves 0, Padres 0
Glavine again worked himself into trouble in the second but was able to escape with no damage. Caminiti led off the inning with a single. Leyritz grounded out to Chipper for the first out and then Joyner struck out swinging for out number two. Finley worked a walk to put runners at first and second but Gomez grounded out to Graffanino at second to end the threat.
The Braves got the leadoff man on in the second against Hitchcock as Galarraga worked a walk. Hitchcock came right back and struck out Lopez. A wild pitch moved Galarraga into scoring position but Andruw grounded out to Gomez for the second out. Another wild pitch allowed Galarraga to move to third but Bautista struck out looking to leave him stranded.
3rd Inning - Braves 0, Padres 0
Glavine got off to a good start in the third retiring Hitchcock and Veras on grounders to Chipper. He then allowed back-to-back singles to Gwynn and Vaughn but struck out Caminiti to strand both runners.
Atlanta went down in order in the third as Graffanino fouled out to first, Glavine struck out and Weiss flew out in an uneventful half-inning for Hitchcock.
4th Inning - Braves 0, Padres 0
Glavine matched Hitchcock pitch for pitch in the fourth retiring Leyritz on a fly out to Andruw in center for the first out. Joyner then grounded out to first and Finley flew out to Williams in right to end the inning.
The Braves would threaten in the fourth but as was the case for most of the series, couldn’t come up with the crucial hit when they needed it. Williams led off the inning with a single and then stole second base. Hitchcock got Chipper to ground out to third and then struck out Galarraga for the second out. Lopez then reached on an infield single to put runners at the corners but Andruw popped up to Gomez at short to end the threat.
5th Inning - Braves 0, Padres 0
Glavine continued to deal in the fifth for the Braves retiring Gomez, Hitchcock and Veras on groundouts in a neat 12-pitch inning.
Hitchcock only needed 12 pitches of his own in the bottom half retiring Bautista on a ground out before striking out both Graffanino and Glavine.
6th Inning - Padres 5, Braves 0
The game, series, and season would come apart for the Braves in the sixth. Glavine retired Gwynn on a grounder to Galarraga at first but then found trouble as Vaughn and Caminiti both singled to put runners at the corners with just one out. Leyritz then grounded slowly to third and was thrown out at first but Vaughn crossed the plate for the first run of the game. Joyner followed with a single to center that plated Caminiti to make it 2-0. Finley followed with a single of his own to put runners at first and second. Glavine then walked Gomez on four pitches to load the bases.
From here things went from bad to worse for Atlanta. Hitchcock hit a line drive to left field that Bautista couldn’t handle. Both Joyner and Finley scored on the error to make it 4-0. That would end the night for Glavine who would exit in favor of John Rocker. Rocker had been good so far in the series but allowed a single to Veras that scored Gomez to make it 5-0. Gwynn followed with yet another single and Cox would emerge from the dugout again and replace Rocker with Dennis Martinez, who got Vaughn to ground back to the mound for the final out. The Padres sent 11 men to the plate in their offensive outburst
Perhaps the long inning and running the bases had an adverse effect on Hitchcock, as he began the bottom half of the inning with a pair of walks to Weiss and Williams. Not messing around, Bochy would then call on Brian Boehringer out of the pen to face Chipper. Boehringer jumped ahead 0-2 and then struck out Chipper looking for the first out. Galarraga followed and lifted a fly ball into Finley’s glove in center on the first pitch he saw for the second out. Lopez popped out to third for the final out, squandering yet another chance.
7th Inning - Padres 5, Braves 0
Martinez came back out to work the seventh and retired Caminiti and Leyritz on grounders before getting Joyner to fly out to end the frame.
Andruw led off the seventh by fouling out to the catcher. Boehringer then walked Michael Tucker, who was pinch-hitting for Bautista. Cox would then send Keith Lockhart to the plate to hit for Graffanino but Bochy would counter by going to his bullpen for left-hander Mark Langston. Lockhart worked the count to 2-2 but struck out swinging. Cox again went to his bench with Greg Colbrunn coming on to hit for Martinez. Bochy would double-switch, bringing in Joey Hamilton to pitch with Carlos Hernandez taking over behind the plate. After all that, Colbrunn went fishing on the first pitch he saw from Hamilton and flew out to Vaughn in left for the final out of the inning.
8th Inning - Padres 5, Braves 0
Game 4 starter Denny Neagle took over for the Braves in the eighth. Finley grounded out to Lockhart at second for the first out. Gomez popped out on the infield for out number two before Hernandez reached on a single up the middle. Neagle then got Veras to ground out to end the frame.
Hamilton stayed in to work the eighth for the Padres and walked Weiss to lead off the inning. However, Williams struck out while Chipper and Galarraga both grounded out harmlessly.
9th Inning - Padres 5, Braves 0
Neagle stayed in to work the ninth and retired Gwynn on a ground out for the first out. He then walked Vaughn but struck out Caminiti and pinch-hitter Ruben Rivera to end the inning.
Bochy would call for Trevor Hoffman to finish the Braves off. Lopez struck out to open the ninth. Andruw would ground an 0-1 pitch to Gomez at short for the second out and Tucker would fly out harmlessly to left to end the game, the series and Atlanta’s season.
Series Wrap Up
Hitchcock allowed just two hits over five scoreless innings. He struck out eight and walked three and was named NLCS MVP of the series. Glavine may have deserved a better fate, allowing seven hits and five runs, although just two were earned, in 5 2/3 innings, though he posted a 2/3 K/BB ratio.
If you needed proof of the unpredictability of baseball then look no further than this series. Atlanta won 106 games during the regular season and went 56-25 at home, yet lost all three games played at Turner Field. Atlanta scored 15 runs in their two victories and just three runs in their four losses. The swing game still felt like Game 1; if the Braves had somehow been able to pull out a win, the series might have turned out differently.