1995 Braves: No clincher for ace

Braves pitcher Greg Maddux reacts to a allowing a run for the Cleveland Indians in the sixth inning of Game 5 of the 1995 World Series, Oct. 26, 1995, in Cleveland.
Braves pitcher Greg Maddux reacts to a allowing a run for the Cleveland Indians in the sixth inning of Game 5 of the 1995 World Series, Oct. 26, 1995, in Cleveland.

Credit: FRANK NIEMEIR

Credit: FRANK NIEMEIR

Twenty-five years ago today, Greg Maddux took the mound with a chance to clinch a title for Atlanta, but he spotted the Indians a 2-0 lead in the first inning and then allowed three more runs in the sixth, sending the series back to Atlanta. This was the account that appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the following day:

Oct. 26, 1995

Getting a piece of the master

By Jack Wilkinson

CLEVELAND — Next month, he will win his fourth straight Cy Young Award. But what Greg Maddux desperately wanted was to win his fourth straight game of this postseason Thursday. The game that would have won the World Series for the Atlanta Braves.

The game that got away.

Maddux, who had mystified the Indians with a two-hitter in Game 1, was beaten 5-4 in Game 5 at Jacobs Field. The Series now returns to Atlanta Saturday, with the Braves still leading 3-2 but the Indians still breathing. And Maddux still seeking the one thing he holds above all others: the Series clincher.

It did not happen here, not even on the road, where Maddux has been even more masterful than at home. He had ended the regular season with a major league record 18 straight road wins, dating to July 2, 1994. In those 20 starts, Maddux’s ERA was 0.99.

But on this night, in a rematch with Orel Hershiser, Maddux gave up a two-run, first-inning homer to Albert Belle, then a pair of two-out, RBI singles to Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez in the sixth. It was just the fourth time all year - but the second in the postseason - that Maddux had allowed four earned runs. In seven innings, he gave up seven hits, struck out four and walked three. The man who lost just twice all season lost Thursday for the first time since Aug. 9, 12 starts ago. Lost when he wanted to win so badly.

Indeed, this is why Maddux had come to Atlanta, why he’d signed for a free agent’s fortune on Dec. 9, 1992. It wasn’t just the $5.5 million he earned this season, or the $27 million over five years. Rather, what lured Maddux to Atlanta was the chance to pitch in, and win, the World Series.

That distinct possibility — almost a foregone conclusion — pervaded and haunted this city all day Thursday. “I’ve faced more pleasing prospects,” Indian manager Mike Hargrove conceded in the aftermath of Game 4. For Atlanta, the notion of Maddux on the mound loomed delicious.

“We’re ahead 3-1 and we’ve got the best pitcher in baseball going for us,” reliever Pedro Borbon, who saved Game 4, said in the dugout late Thursday afternoon. “What better scenario could you ask for?”

For the Braves' bullpen, another Maddux start likely meant another easy shift, in the pen. “I’ll tell you what we do,” said Borbon. “It’s vacation time when Maddux pitches. You sit back and enjoy the best pitcher in baseball and watch a masterpiece.”

As Borbon spoke, a light rain was falling at Jacobs Field. Within minutes, it began pouring. Soon, water was leaking through the roof of the Braves' dugout. The real damage would come much later.

“I’d better go tell Leo about this,” said manager Bobby Cox, who went back into the clubhouse to alert pitching coach Leo Mazzone about the rain. Mazzone, in turn, told Maddux.

By 8 p.m., though, the rain had stopped and the tarp had been removed. At 8:10, Maddux interrupted his warmup in the bullpen to endure Joe Walsh’s rendition of the national anthem. By 8:16, Maddux was finished. He put on his jacket and, with Mazzone beside him, walked from the bullpen in right field to the dugout.

Just before reaching the dugout, Maddux licked his lips once, then licked them again. That was something the Indians surely weren’t doing, but might have been. For this was not the same Maddux as the one who won Game 1.

With one out in the first inning, Maddux — who averaged just 0.99 walks per nine innings — walked Omar Vizquel. After Carlos Baerga grounded to second, though, Maddux made a more grave mistake: a first- pitch home run to Belle that hit atop the roof in the Braves' bullpen and gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead.

Cleveland's Eddie Murray (left) is restrained by the umpire and Braves catcher Charlie O'Brien (right) after burshback pitch from Atlanta's Greg Maddux in Game 5 of the 1995 World Series, Oct. 26, 1995, in Cleveland. (Frank Neimeir/AJC)
Cleveland's Eddie Murray (left) is restrained by the umpire and Braves catcher Charlie O'Brien (right) after burshback pitch from Atlanta's Greg Maddux in Game 5 of the 1995 World Series, Oct. 26, 1995, in Cleveland. (Frank Neimeir/AJC)

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Then, after Eddie Murray lined the first pitch foul, Maddux came in high and tight to Murray — as in, at his chin. Murray ducked out of the way, then wheeled and pointed and yelled at Maddux, angrily accusing him of throwing at his head. Both benches emptied. Plate umpire Frank Pulli stepped out in front of Murray. So did Braves catcher Charlie O’Brien, trying to convince Murray that Maddux hadn’t thrown at him. No sale.

When Murray walked, it was just the second time all year Maddux had walked two batters in the same inning, and the first time since July 14, 1990 that he’d allowed two walks and a homer in the first inning.

Murray was promptly picked off by O’Brien, though. Maddux then settled down. He allowed just one more hit until the fifth inning. In the fourth, though, Murray nearly got revenge with that time-honored reply to the brushback pitch: He lined a shot back at Maddux’s head. The pitcher got out of the way, but reached his glove up and caught the ball.

Maddux was hit hard in the fifth inning, but escaped with just a double by Sandy Alomar. But come the sixth, Maddux gave up a double to Baerga, then walked Belle intentionally. After Baerga took third on Murray’s liner to right, he scored on Thome’s 1-2, two-out single to center. When Ramirez singled to right, it was 4-2 Cleveland. An inning later, Maddux’s night — and chance to win the World Series — were done.

Looking back

Game 1: Greg Maddux pitches 2-hit masterpiece

Game 2: Javy Lopez puts Atlanta in command

Game 3: John Smoltz battles the elements

Game 4: Spark from surprising starters

In Other News