Baseball-Almanac.com's Divisional Series section
1995 National League Divisional Series:
Atlanta Braves (3),
Colorado Rockies (1)
The inaugural National League Divisional Series matched the journeyman Atlanta Braves against the surprising Colorado Rockies who were only in their second year of existence. One sports writer even lifted the chorus from the Hendrix classic "Are You Experienced" for the top of his column and predicted that an Atlanta sweep was already a foregone conclusion. In some ways, it made sense as the Braves were the only three-city franchise (from either league) to play in the World Series while representing three different cities. However, Colorado's newly inducted expansion team had also made history by becoming the first ever to reach postseason play prior to its eighth year of competition. Things weren't as "predictable" on the other side as the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers were no stranger to the playoffs. Both teams had teetered back and forth in the standings over the last few seasons and were anxious to revive the glory days of the "Big Red Machine" and "Fernandomania".
Pitching remained the biggest gun in Atlanta's arsenal as it was the "men on the mound" who were primarily responsible for the Braves' two-out-of-three tickets to the last Fall Classics. The Rockies on the other hand, boasted their firepower at the plate and the Series promised to be a "true battle" in the strike zone. Surprisingly, defensive play stood out in Game 1 after Chipper Jones made a spectacular stop to rob Andres Galarraga of a sure-fire double. The rookie third baseman then added insult to injury with two home runs in the top of the ninth. To make matters worse, Rockies manager Don Baylor ran out of hitters in the bottom of the inning and was forced to send in pitcher Lance Painter with two outs. The Braves capitalized on Baylor's "mismanagement misfortune" and took the opener 5-4. The following day, Colorado looked to even the score while leading 4-3 going into the top of the ninth, but Atlanta came roaring back with four runs, due in part, to a clutch Mike Mordecai pinch-homer. The result was a 7-4 Game 2 victory and a two-games-to-none edge in the Series. Game 3 featured another late Atlanta comeback as pinch-hitter Luis Polonia's two-strike run-scoring single sent the game into extra innings. Things didn't end as well this time though (7-5) as Colorado bounced back to score twice in the tenth on Dante Bichette's double and run-scoring singles by Andres Galarraga and Vinny Castilla (who had homered in the sixth). After eliminating the possibility of a sweep, Colorado sent in their own Cy Young Award winner for Game 4 (Bret Saberhagen) to face Greg Maddux, who had won a few of his own. Always at the top of his game, Maddux struck out and seven and walked none before leaving for a pinch hitter in the seventh. Saberhagen on the other hand, was unable to match the Atlanta ace and fell victim to a controversial "safe" call on a play in which he attempted to cover first. Fred McGriff then added insult to injury with the first of his two homers in the contest. In the end, the Braves emerged victorious (10-4) reaching the National League Championship for a record fourth consecutive time.
Cincinnati quickly set the pace in their opener (7-2) after scoring four times in the first inning while taking LA starter Ramon Martinez for 10 hits and 2 walks in just 4 1/3 innings. Game 2 remained a more even affair (at least until the Dodgers bullpen entered the game). It was then that Reds shortstop Barry Larkin opened the 2-2 tie with a clutch, eight-inning single. Soon after, his teammates added two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Dodgers' catcher Mike Piazza managed to strike back with a two-run homer off John Brantley in the bottom of the inning, but the perennial All-Star's efforts proved to be too little - too late. Once again, the Reds prevailed 5-4. Game 3 made quick work of Los Angeles and completed the "C-town" sweep after Ron Gant and Bret Boone both hit home runs off starter Hideo Nomo. Mark Lewis added to the west coasts' misery with a humiliating grand slam capping off the 10-1 massacre. After entering the Series as the "underdog", Davey Johnson's Cincinnati Reds had surprised both the Dodgers and their critics by outscoring their opponents a whopping 22-7. Nevertheless, Tommy Lasorda's team had several chances to extend the Series, but somehow managed to squander every opportunity by leaving 11 runners on base. Some of LA's critics blamed the bullpen for their inability to finish the job, while others blamed the line-up for their inability to "round the bases". Unfortunately for the Dodger faithful, little would change when their team went up against the Atlanta Braves in the upcoming '96 affair.
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