Losing Round One Deflates the Braves

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ted Turner, the flamboyant owner of the Atlanta Braves, walked out of his team's still-locked clubhouse Friday night, shook his head and said somberly, "a sad place in there, a very sad place."

Turner walked the few steps to his car, parked in the underground tunnel of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, opened the door for girlfriend Jane Fonda and slowly drove off, leaving that sadness behind.

The Braves and Tom Glavine, the Cy Young Award candidate who lost to the Dodgers, 5-2, in Friday night's opener of this showdown series for the National League West lead, weren't as fortunate.

Now half a game behind the Dodgers, the Braves' attempt to leave the night behind was delayed by reporters.

Had Turner embellished their emotions in the wake of a setback seen by a crowd of 45,769, their largest of the year?

"We're obviously disappointed," Glavine said. "With everything that had been made of this series, we wanted to get off to a good start, but there are two games left in it and 20 or so games left in the season. I don't think it's do-or-die yet."

Maybe not, but a generally boisterous clubhouse was quiet.

Glavine (18-10) has been the ace of a rotation that many feel has become the National League's best.

He has dominated both the Dodgers and Darryl Strawberry, displaying the mental toughness of a college hockey star drafted by the Kings. But in the pivotal opener, Strawberry took Glavine and the crowd out of the game, putting pressure on the less-experienced John Smoltz and Steve Avery--who start today and Sunday--to compensate for the failure.

"I've had good success against Darryl Strawberry," Glavine said, "but he wouldn't be making $3 million or so a year if he wasn't capable of producing success himself."

Frequently removed from the lineup against the left-handed Glavine while with the New York Mets, Strawberry came in with a career average against him of .091, with two hits in 22 at-bats.

This time, thinking only about hitting the ball where it was pitched, he went three for three against Atlanta's top winner, driving in the first Dodger run with a single to center field, tying the score with a home run to right-center field and sustaining the decisive two-run attack in the seventh inning with a single to left.

"I don't think you can continually attack one spot," Glavine said of his plan in pitching to Strawberry. "I try to move the ball in and out and change speeds. The way he's hitting now, if you get a pitch in his zone, he's going to hit it.

"I thought my stuff was good tonight, but I made mistakes with location. I mean, I wasn't nervous and didn't change my approach, but you're flirting with disaster when you make as many mistakes as I did."

Glavine gave up 10 hits and five runs in 7 1/3 innings, delivering 97 pitches. He had twice beaten the Dodgers with complete games this year, giving up only two earned runs in 26 innings of three starts.

In reversing that pattern, shortstop Alfredo Griffin suggested the Dodgers had made a breakthrough that went beyond the standings.

"This was good because we beat Tom Glavine," Griffin said. "I don't remember beating him since I've been here. That's four years. That's a long time."

Glavine has a 6-8 career record against the Dodgers, but it is deceiving. He was 4-0 against them in 1989, in addition to the 2-0 this year.

"We've struggled against him because we haven't seen him a lot," Kal Daniels said. "The more you see a guy, the more you know about him."

Glavine didn't think the loss resulted from familiarity, and he didn't think Strawberry changed his approach.

"I think the hit he got to left (in the two-run seventh) was a fluke," he said. "I don't think he was trying to go the other way. I think he's up there looking to drive the ball every time, and he just got enough of it to flare it that way.

"Like I said, you pay a price when you miss with location. I was trying to get a fastball away on his home run, but it came back over the plate. A hitter of his caliber isn't going to miss it, and he didn't."

With renewed confidence in his fastball and his team's rebuilt defense, Glavine has won more games than any Braves left-hander since Warren Spahn won 23 in 1963, but the Braves are 4-9 against the Dodgers this year, and that isn't as easily explained as misplaced location.

"On paper I don't think they're better than we are, but on the field they have been," Glavine said. "I don't have the answer to that, but it's like I said . . . we still have time to change it."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
61°