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Millwood masters Giants; Braves tie series

10/4/2002

ATLANTA (AP) -- Kevin Millwood is back, and so are the Atlanta Braves.

Millwood allowed only three hits in six innings and the Braves evened their NL division series with San Francisco at one game apiece, beating the Giants 7-3 Thursday night.

Filling in for Greg Maddux, Millwood earned his first postseason win since 1999 with a dominating performance, which neatly summed up his recovery from two dismal seasons.

"I was real fired up,'' he said. "I knew this was a big game for us. We definitely didn't want to go to San Francisco down two games. That was probably as excited or pumped as I've been all year.''

Millwood, who threw only 72 pitches, was replaced by a
pinch-hitter shortly after he hit the ground on a fielding play at
first base. The Braves initially said he wasn't hurt, but Millwood
conceded his groin was sore.

"It's nothing that would really affect anything,'' he said. "I don't think it would bother me for a Game 5.''

Barry Bonds went 1-for-4, hitting a massive, meaningless homer
off John Smoltz in the ninth. It was only the second postseason
homer for Bonds, the other coming off Atlanta's Tom Glavine in the
1992 NL championship series.

"I was able to have the luxury of messing with Barry,'' Smoltz
said. "In that situation, he couldn't hurt me.''

The Braves wasted no time bouncing back from an 8-5 loss in Game
1. Chipper Jones had an RBI single in the first, and Atlanta went
ahead for good when Javy Lopez and Vinny Castilla led off the
second with back-to-back homers off Kirk Rueter.

Mark DeRosa, making his first postseason start, doubled his first time up and came in to score on Rafael Furcal's bloop single, capping a three-run second.

DeRosa drove in two runs of his own in the fourth, slicing a
triple into the right-field corner. He trotted home to make it 6-1
on Benito Santiago's passed ball, the All-Star catcher's second
defensive miscue of the series.

Rueter lasted only three-plus innings, allowing seven hits and
six earned runs. In his two previous postseason appearances, he
gave up one earned run in 11 1/3 innings.

"Kirk got some balls up,'' Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "His ball was not sinking as much as usual. He was throwing about 77, 78 (mph), which is almost too hard for the ball to sink.''

Millwood's only major mistakes wound up in the seats. J.T. Snow
hit an opposite-field homer in the second, and Rich Aurilia went
deep in the sixth. Santiago had the other hit off Millwood, a
leadoff single in the fifth.

The Atlanta starter threw just 18 balls, struck out seven and
walked none. His most trying play came in the sixth, when first
baseman Julio Franco let a grounder by Kenny Lofton skip off his
glove. Franco recovered and flipped to Millwood, who stretched far
enough to get Lofton before tumbling to the dirt.

On the very next pitch, Aurilia homered into the left-field
seats. Jeff Kent grounded out to end the inning, and Millwood was
done for the night with the Braves holding a five-run cushion.

"He was so fired up he just about wore himself out,'' manager
Bobby Cox said. "He was absolutely done after the last out he
got.''

Millwood was originally scheduled to pitch Game 3, but the
Braves moved him up because they were worried about a blister on
Maddux's pitching hand.

That turned out to be a huge break for Atlanta, which avoided
falling behind 0-2 in the best-of-5 series before it shifted to San
Francisco.

Maddux is set to go against Jason Schmidt in Game 3 Saturday.

Bonds, who heard derisive chants of "Barry! Barry!'' from the
near-sellout crowd of 47,167, took a called third strike from Millwood leading off the second. He got a bit of redemption in the ninth, nearly reaching the club level down the right-field line when Smoltz challenged him with a big lead.

Still, Bonds is hitting just .200 in the postseason for his career.

"They have pitched to him,'' Baker said of the Braves. "They've thrown him quite a few fastballs inside and up. I'm glad to see Barry catch up with one.''

Millwood had 35 wins in his first two full seasons in the major
leagues, and he was a key player for the Braves in the 1999
postseason.

He pitched only the fifth one-hitter in postseason history
against Houston in the division series, then came back to save the
next game.

Millwood also beat the New York Mets in a classic NL championship series before getting blown out by the Yankees in his only World Series start.

The last two years, he had nothing but misery.

An NL Cy Young Award contender coming into 2000, Millwood slumped to 10-13 and took the loss in St. Louis' clinching victory in the opening round of the playoffs.

Last season, Millwood spent more than two months on the DL with a sore shoulder and finished 7-7. His only postseason appearance was a one-inning mopup job.

This year, Millwood reclaimed his place as a top starter. After
going 18-8 in the regular season, he came through in the biggest
game of the year thus far for Atlanta.

"I'm getting back to where I was,'' he said. "Being hurt
changed my mechanics. I was trying to figure out a way to throw
where it didn't hurt.''

The Braves made the most of their eight hits. Lopez and Castilla, who had terrible seasons but swung better the past few weeks, became only the second duo in Atlanta history to hit consecutive postseason homers.

It was the bottom half of the order that did most of the damage
for the Braves. The 6-7-8 hitters -- Lopez, Castilla and DeRosa -- went 5-for-9 with four RBI and six runs.

Lopez homered in the first two games of the series after batting only .233 with 11 homers in the regular season.

Game notes
The only other Atlanta tandem to hit back-to-back homers in
the postseason were Ryan Klesko and Brian Jordan in Game 4 of the
1999 NL championship series. ... With two runners on in the
seventh, San Francisco's David Bell fouled off four straight 3-2
offerings from Mike Remlinger before striking out on the 10th
pitch. ... Snow's homer was the first by the Giants in the
postseason since Game 2 of the 2000 division series against the
Mets. ... The crowd was more than 5,000 larger than the Game 1
turnout of 41,903. ... The Braves had only one hit after the fourth
inning against three San Francisco relievers.