10/05/2002 9:12 pm ET
Giants-Braves: The big picture
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
The Braves are in control and their big hitters have not yet stepped it up.
That's where this series stands after Game 3, in which the Braves put away the Giants, 10-2, and put themselves within one win of moving on to the NLCS for the 10th time in 11 years.
The Braves have to like the odds from where they sit. On Sunday night at Pacific Bell Park, they'll give Tom Glavine a chance to redeem himself for his Game 1 loss in Atlanta. And, in the worst-case scenario, they head back to Atlanta with Kevin Millwood set for a pivotal Game 5.
The Braves have scored 22 runs in three games so far and their big hitters, Gary Sheffield, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones, have barely chipped in. The turning point of the series, if the Braves win, surely will be when Javy Lopez and Vinny Castilla hit back-to-back home runs on Thursday night in Atlanta to break a 1-1 tie. Castilla participated in more back-to-back damge on Saturday, singling in two to break a sixth-inning tie before Keith Lockhart hit a three-run homer to right.
If the Braves make it three wins in a row, rebounding after an opening game loss, it will match their 1999 Division Series against Houston. The Astros won Game 1 in Atlanta and then the Braves won three straight. In fact, a win for Atlanta on Sunday night would pretty much mirror the Braves' 2002 season, which started slowly and then kicked into gear on May 15 with many of their unsung players providing leadership and game-winning efforts.
"That's the way it's been all season,'' says Bobby Cox, every chance he gets.
The Giants have to hope that Livan Hernandez comes up big again and can shut down the bottom of the Atlanta order as well as the top. Hernandez is 5-0 with a 2.75 ERA in six postseason starts, but five of those starts were when he was with the Marlins in their championship season of 1997.
San Francisco had won nine games in a row before losing the last two. The Giants will need huge games from more key players if they are going to regain the momentum and move on to the NLCS for the first time since 1989.
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.