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Padres Get By Braves

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rain delayed the start of Game 1 of the National League championship series by more than two hours here Wednesday night.

But it was worth the wait.

Ken Caminiti hit a one-out, solo home run in the 10th inning to lead the San Diego Padres to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves before a crowd of 42,117 at Turner Field.

Caminiti’s blast to center against Atlanta rookie closer Kerry Ligtenberg gave the Padres a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series--and stirred a thunderous celebration in the visitors’ dugout.

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“My timing was pretty good up there, and I got the green light [when the count reached 3 and 1],” Caminiti said. “I was looking for a fastball a little bit up, and I got it, and I was able to do something with it.”

Padre Manager Bruce Bochy wasn’t surprised.

“We’re kind of used to him coming through with clutch hits,” Bochy said. “He got a big one there that really gave us a lift when we needed it.”

Atlanta tied the score, 2-2, on a one-out sacrifice fly by Andruw Jones in the ninth against Padre closer Trevor Hoffman. Jones, who also hit a solo homer, drove in Ryan Klesko from third base. Klesko had walked to lead off the inning, then advanced to third with some bold baserunning on a single by Javy Lopez. Klesko, who bloodied his nose on the play, slid into third just after the throw but Caminiti did not make the catch.

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Hoffman had 53 saves in 54 opportunities during the regular season. He had two saves in the division series against the Houston Astros.

But Hoffman had some control trouble in the 10th. After he got two quick outs, he walked pitcher Tom Glavine, today’s starter, who was pinch-hitting because Manager Bobby Cox had no one else available. Hoffman was replaced with Donne Wall, who walked Chipper Jones. Then Wall got Andres Galarraga to fly out to end the game.

“You’re facing great pitching at this time of the year, so every mistake is bigger,” Caminiti said. “That’s why it’s big to get that lead [in the series], because it just makes it a little bit easier.”

San Diego took the lead in the eighth with the help of two errors by first baseman Galarraga--on one play--when Ruben Rivera scored from third base to give them a 2-1 lead.

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“I thought I could take another base,” Rivera said. “I thought I had a pretty good chance to go to the plate. I don’t think in those situations. I don’t have time to think. I just see the ball and I react.”

Bochy applauded Rivera’s instincts. “He’s pretty exciting,” Bochy said. “He did a good job reacting, then going from second to third and from third to home.”

Rivera had doubled to lead off the inning against Smoltz, finishing the right-hander’s work. Smoltz, who was in trouble throughout, pitched seven-plus innings, and left with the score tied, 1-1.

Rivera entered the game in left field in the fifth because Greg Vaughn--who established franchise records with 50 homers and 119 runs batted in this season--was head to leave after suffering a left quadriceps strain.

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Rivera advanced to third on a sacrifice fly by Caminiti, though center fielder Jones made a sensational throw to third that nearly beat Rivera. Smoltz was relieved by left-hander John Rocker, who faced pinch-hitter Jim Leyritz, batting for Wally Joyner.

Leyritz has achieved cult-figure status in San Diego because he hit three homers in the division series. He came through again Wednesday--with Galarraga’s help.

Right-hander Dennis Martinez came in to face Leyritz, who grounded back to the mound. Rivera took a few steps toward the plate, but stopped when Martinez looked at him.

Martinez threw to first, but Galarraga stepped off the bag before receiving the ball, committing error No. 1. Error No. 2 occurred when Galarraga, trying to get the sliding Rivera at the plate, made a throw that eluded catcher Lopez, and Leyritz wound up at second.

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The Padres threatened to break the game open, loading the bases on an intentional walk and a single against Martinez. By Chris Gomez grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Padres tied the score, 1-1, on a two-out, run-scoring single by Tony Gwynn in the fifth. Carlos Hernandez singled to begin the inning, and advanced to second on a one-out sacrifice bunt by San Diego starter Andy Ashby.

Then leadoff batter Quilvio Veras went to work. Veras, who was stranded at third in the first inning after walking, walked on a full count against Smoltz in the fifth with Gwynn on deck. Gwynn, who singled through the middle in the third, singled to left to drive in Hernandez from second.

The eight-time NL batting champion entered the game with a .452 (28 for 62) career average against Smoltz. The RBI was his 12th against Smoltz.

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“He’s obviously one of the greatest hitters in the game,” Smoltz said. “He’s a guy who has had a lot of success against me, but I’m sure not the only guy he’s had success against. All you can do is just keep trying to work him the way you normally would.”

Jones put the Braves ahead, 1-0, with a leadoff homer in the third. Jones hit his first homer of the postseason--a shot to left field--on a 1-and-0 count against Ashby.

* BROWN’S READY

Padre pitcher Kevin Brown said he was willing to start Wednesday’s game, but Andy Ashby did just fine. Page 6

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