BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : NATIONAL LEAGUE : Mum's the Word From Sanders and Bat

Reggie Sanders took this one hard.

In a monstrous slump, the Cincinnati outfielder--who has 14 strikeouts in his last 19 at-bats, with no ball out of the infield--has remained pleasant and optimistic up to this. But after Friday's 5-2 defeat, he sent word that he had nothing to say.

Barry Larkin did.

"Everybody is talking about Reggie, Reggie this, Reggie that," the Red shortstop said. "It's not just Reggie. What's happening to Reggie has happened to all of us. Reggie's not the only one who's not producing runs. Nobody on this team is producing runs, so never mind Reggie."


Charlie O'Brien's homer came with his boyhood idol, Johnny Bench, in attendance in the broadcast booth.

"You grow up dreaming you're Johnny Bench," said O'Brien, a journeyman who at 34 has never been in a postseason series before this. "Being from Oklahoma and a catcher, we wore the same number and I caught a lot like him.

"I also tried to hit like him, but that didn't last very long."


Atlanta infielder Chipper Jones was the National League's "hands-down best rookie," said Cincinnati Manager Davey Johnson.

What about Hideo Nomo?

"He was already a major leaguer in Japan," Johnson said.


With his mother ill, Cincinnati pitcher David Wells decided to leave and be by her side, after pitching Friday's game.

He forgot to tell his manager.

After speaking with the pitcher, Johnson said, "His mother needs an operation. She's in good health. His brother is there. After he pitches, he'll go home."

Wells had hinted he might not be available for a Game 6 or 7, but Johnson still expects him to pitch, if needed.

"I called her today," Wells said, after dedicating Friday's game to her, only to lose, 5-2. "She's really improved. She's gone from being high-risk to full steam ahead.

"She told me, 'Stay and pitch.' That's my Ma. A gamer, huh?"


"That sounds like a loaded question," Johnson snapped, when asked if pitcher Mark Portugal would be used again in relief.

Portugal served up the three-run homer by Javier Lopez in the 10th inning of Game 2.

Johnson said, "I'm not going to put him in my doghouse for one bad outing."


Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox's plan was to pitch Steve Avery today, now that the Braves hold a 3-0 edge in the series. Otherwise, Tom Glavine would have gone. . . . Atlanta shortstop Jeff Blauser is out because of a leg injury at least until Sunday. "He's able to walk, but he can't trot," Cox said. . . . Dwight Smith, an Atlanta outfielder, sang the national anthem.

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