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Press Row: Braves in for Giant fight
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Division Series
10/03/2002 12:27 pm ET 
Press Row: Braves in for Giant fight
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

The Braves face a tough challenge with Barry Bonds, but Game 1 proved he isn't the only one to fear. (Roberto Borea/AP)
San Francisco media is treating the Giants' Game 1 win in their NL Division Series like the critical road playoff victory they've been wanting for years. Atlanta media is treating this as business as usual, far from a reason to worry.

San Francisco Chronicle writer Bruce Jenkins said the Giants were more relieved than anything after a near-meltdown in the ninth inning.

"There was talk of an equally pleasant afternoon in the autumn of 2000, when the Giants took a 1-0 Division Series lead over the Mets at Pacific Bell Park," Jenkins wrote. "This was more significant, though. This was the Giants' first road victory in the postseason since 1989, the 11-3 opener of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. They had lost all seven road games since then [make it eight if you count the one-game playoff for the Wild-Card spot against the Cubs in '98]. There is no charm or atmosphere to Turner Field, where the announced crowd of 41,903 looked to be about 10,000 less, but there is a definite mystique to the Braves. The Giants came to town and shot it to pieces."

As fellow Chronicle writer Henry Schulman wrote, "Before the series, the Braves swore they would force somebody besides Barry Bonds to beat them. On Wednesday, everybody but Bonds beat them."

Added San Jose Mercury-News columnist Eric Gilmore: "What the Braves must be thinking now is that they're in for the fight of their postseason lives whether they see the good Barry or the bad Barry."

The Braves acted like they had no reason to panic after Wednesday's loss, and the media followed their clue. For one thing, they pointed out, the Braves had their chances to come back and just fell short. For another point, Bonds is still looking like the postseason is a struggle for him.

"Truth to tell, Game 1 was a game out of whack," Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley wrote. "Tom Glavine yielded 10 hits, the most in his 31 postseason starts. Glavine was undone by J.T. Snow and David Bell and Benito Santiago and Reggie Sanders and Rich Aurilia, who are the Giants you want to undo you. If those five Giants continue to rap singles and doubles, the Braves might as well concede. Chances are, those five won't. Chances are, the burden of victory will fall on Barry Bonds, who, chances are, will fail yet again."

Bradley also considers Maddux's blister and bump from Game 2 a blessing in disguise. "Millwood gets to work tonight's Game 2, and Millwood has been the Braves' best pitcher the last four months," Bradley wrote. "Maddux will start Game 3 in San Francisco, and his temperament fits the assignment. Let Millwood bring the Braves even, and then the phlegmatic Maddux is positioned to stare down the raucous Pac Bell crowd. Seriously, which pairing would you rather deploy at such a time -- Millwood and Maddux, who have 12 postseason victories between them, or Kirk Rueter and Jason Schmidt, who have none?"

It appears no matter what happens the rest of the series, Giants manager Dusty Baker's job is secure if he wants it. Chronicle writer John Shea said the Giants have a contract extension ready for their manager, possibly for two years, but not at Joe Torre money.

"Speculation, both in the Bay Area and nationally, was that Baker wouldn't receive a new contract if the Giants got knocked out in the first round again, that ownership was tired of the early exits after getting eliminated by the 1997 Marlins and 2000 Mets," Shea wrote.

"But that's not exactly the case. Baker, The Chronicle learned, will receive a contract offer no matter how far the Giants go this month -- he would have even if they had been swept by the Braves. Now the only team that can sweep is the Giants.

"The final decision will be Baker's. Once the season ends, whether it's later this week or later this month, general manager Brian Sabean will sign his new contract, putting to rest any thought of returning to his Boston roots.

"If the contract isn't on Sabean's desk at Pacific Bell Park already, waiting for him to sign, it's down the hall."

But without question, the highlight of the morning offerings came from the left-field bleachers. Southern gentlemen? Don't call Atlanta fans that when it comes to welcoming Barry Bonds. Michelle Hiskey of the Journal-Constitution hung out with the fans in Section 136 -- right behind Bonds in left field. What she found was a passion for deriding baseball's leading hitter, the type of strong feeling that critics thought was long gone in Atlanta.

Hiskey surveyed some of the cleaner responses: "'Hey Barry, what kind of steroids are you on?' yelled Kelly Menefee of Atlanta. Her face turned red from the hot autumn sun and hollering. She confided that she skipped work just for the chance to taunt him. "I really like enjoying not liking him," she said. "He totally motivated me for this game."

"A few seats away, David Nudelman of Marietta pumped a sign that read, 'I hate you Barry much.'

"'If he wasn't here, I'd be sleeping till 3 p.m.,' the college student said. 'He's like a bad wreck that you just have to watch.'

"That's why Bonds is great to have in Atlanta this week. Love him or, more likely, despise him, Bonds at least gives people a reason to show up at Turner Field. 'He's worth yelling at, he's that good,' said Adam Davis, who drove four hours from Savannah expressly to sit behind Bonds and ridicule him.

"James Dockery of Alpharetta wiggled his outstretched fingers as if casting a spell on Bonds. He yelled, 'Sid Bream! Sid Bream!' reminding Bonds of his throw that arrived too late, allowing one of the slowest Braves players to score and costing the Pirates the 1992 League Championship Series.

"In the middle innings, Bonds surveyed his hecklers with a blank stare almost every minute. The gold cross in his left ear glinting, he paced like a tiger at nearby Zoo Atlanta, spitting occasionally. He tipped his hat once."

No one had reaction from Bonds because, true to his regular-season form, he didn't talk to the media after the game.

If there's one thing everyone in the media could agree upon, it was Andruw Jones' ability in center field after he robbed Bonds of a home run in the ninth inning. "It truly is a privilege to watch Andruw Jones play center field for the Braves," Jenkins wrote. "Saying he is Willie Mays' superior [as some claim] is a bit much, but he's an artist out there, a sweet defender along the lines of Paul Blair or Willie Davis. Bonds hit one out, essentially, an eighth-inning drive that was heading over the fence in dead center, and Jones casually hauled it back in with a beautifully timed leap and snatch.

"Bonds has been raving about Jones for years, and as arrogant as he seemed after the game, Bonds revealed his true feelings in the wake of that play. He looked out toward center field and smiled, looking youthful and appreciative and wise."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at jason.beck@mlb.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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