10/06/2002 6:01 pm ET
MLBeat: Lopez to start Game 4
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- After taking his customary position on the bench for a Greg Maddux start on Saturday afternoon, Javy Lopez brought his hot October bat back to the Braves lineup for Sunday's Game 4 of the Division Series against the Giants.
Lopez homered in each of the first two games of the series to tie Johnny Bench for most career postseason homers by a catcher with 10. Throughout his career with the Braves, Lopez has shown the ability to begin hitting when it matters most.
"There are just some guys that can look at the situation without fear," Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said. "Some guys just know how to turn it on when the playoffs begin."
Lopez's playoff heroics have included a .444 batting average in the 1995 Division Series and a .542 average with two homers in the 1996 NLCS. His three hits in his first eight at-bats of this season are much more reminiscent of those accomplishments than the .233 batting average he produced during the regular season in 2002.
Braves manager Bobby Cox didn't even consider putting Lopez in the lineup for Saturday's game in which Maddux started and earned his first postseason victory since Game 1 of the 1999 NLCS. The Braves right-hander has always had a designated catcher and this year that role was assumed by Henry Blanco.
Maddux has never publicly knocked Lopez's abilities behind the plate. Instead, he claims to be more comfortable with just one catcher, who can regularly sit with him the day before a start to preview their upcoming approach.
Blanco has proven to be the strong defensive catcher the Braves had hoped to bring into their organization when they traded for him during Spring Training. He has enjoyed the privilege of catching Maddux on a regular basis and playing on a playoff team for the first time in his career.
He ran out of the dugout during Saturday's pregame introductions even before the public address announcer could say his name.
"I just wanted to get out there and see what it really felt like," said Blanco, who registered a hit in five at-bats on Saturday. "It really was everything I thought it would be. I'll never forget it for the rest of my life."
Millwood back to Atlanta: Cox opted to fly potential Game 5 starter Kevin Millwood back to Atlanta on Sunday morning. If the Braves lose Game 4, Millwood, who won Game 2, will start Monday night's decisive game in the five-game series.
"We flew Kevin out at eight (this morning) just to get some rest ...," Cox said. "We thought that would be the smartest thing to do. There's not much time between landing if there is a game tomorrow and pitching. So, we wanted to make sure he got at least a decent night's sleep."
The Braves charter will leave San Francisco approximately two hours after Sunday's game is over. In all likelihood, they will arrive in Atlanta between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. EDT. If Game 5 is necessary, it will begin on Monday at 8 p.m. EDT.
Bonds Senior: Bobby Bonds, the father of Giants left fielder Barry Bonds, took some time before Sunday's game to visit with Julio Franco, Gary Sheffield and Braves bench coach Pat Corrales.
Corrales served as the elder Bonds' coach with the Rangers in 1978. When Corrales was given the managerial job for the last day of that season, Bonds hit a home-run to give Corrales his first career win. The two formed a strong relationship that year and while Corrales was the Indians manager, he hired Bonds as his hitting instructor from 1984 to 1987. The Indians young second baseman on those teams was Franco.
Sheffield received some hitting from the elder Bonds this past offseason, while training with Barry. The Braves right fielder said he's never been through a more physically and mentally grueling batting session than the one Bobby conducts.
Lineup update: Despite facing three right-handed starters, right-handed hitting Julio Franco has gotten the start in each of the first four games of this series. Throughout the season, Matt Franco often got that assignment. While Julio has three hits in 13 at-bats, Matt has one hit in two pinch-hit appearances thus far.
Lopez's insertion in place of Blanco was the only lineup change Cox has made for Sunday's lineup in comparison to the one he constructed for Saturday.
Mark Bowman 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