Archive for Saturday, October 7, 2000

Cardinals feeling no pressure as Game Three nears

October 7, 2000

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— The mood swing was evident from one clubhouse to the next.

The St. Louis Cardinals played video golf "nice shot," the computer-generated voice said to one player and gathered around a big-screen TV to watch "The Matrix," the volume turned up to earsplitting levels.

Down the hall at Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves generated barely a sound. Most players made a quick U-turn toward the parking lot when a scheduled workout was canceled because of rain.

It wasn't hard to tell Friday which team had a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 NL division series.

"We're having a lot of fun," said Garrett Stephenson, who will try to wrap up the series for the Cardinals when he takes on Atlanta's Kevin Millwood in Game 3 today.

Appearances notwithstanding, the Braves insisted there's no sense of panic as they faced their shortest postseason since their run of nine straight playoff appearances began in 1991.

"The guys are still upbeat," Chipper Jones said. "I've heard a lot of guys talking about who we might face in the second round. That shows the confidence is there."

Manager Bobby Cox also played down Atlanta's predicament after two straight losses at Busch Stadium.

"We've won three games before," he said. "It's not as tough as people are making it out to be. If you have the pitching, you have a chance. We feel like we have three pretty good pitchers going out there."

After toying with the idea of using Game 1 loser Greg Maddux on three days rest, Cox picked Millwood (10-13, 4.66 ERA) as the starter Saturday. If Games 4 and 5 are needed, the Braves will use Maddux and Tom Glavine.

"We need all three wins," Cox said. "We have a lot of confidence in Kevin."

This is uncharted territory for the Braves, who already have lost as many division series games this week as they did the last five years. Atlanta entered the playoffs with a 15-2 mark in opening-round games.

The Braves hope to draw on their postseason experience and memories of a 1996 comeback against St. Louis, when they rallied to win the NL championship series after falling behind 3-1.

"There's no panic," Jones said. "We've done it before. It's not going to be easy, but it can be done."

Stephenson (16-9, 4.49) was bothered the final month by tendinitis in his right elbow, even skipping a start to give his arm some extra rest. But the 28-year-old pitcher was successful against the Braves this season, going 2-0 with an 0.57 ERA. Therefore, he was the choice over Pat Hentgen (15-12) and Andy Benes (12-9).

"It was a tough call between the three of them," manager Tony La Russa said.

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