ATLANTA -- Say this for Tom Glavine. He can take the wind out of New York's sails quicker than a David Letterman punch line.
"... and God said to the Mets fan, "Sorry, Mr. Seinfeld, try the next century."
That's the message Glavine delivered Saturday night with a divine fastball and changeup. Working with the precision that's won him a pair of Cy Young Awards this decade, he did a number on a club that has shifted its goal from a wild card berth to a division championship.
In one of the season's best performances, Atlanta's left-hander gave the Mets plenty of reasons to refocus on the wild card. Twenty-four hours after another series-opening loss, the Braves got back on track and crushed New York 7-2 in front of a Turner Field sellout crowd of 48,293 fans, assuring themselves of a division lead when the Mets depart following this afternoon's finale.
Glavine had plenty of help. Besides Ryan Klesko's ninth homer, Chipper Jones contributed a two-run double in the fifth and Brian Jordan pumped two more RBI into the league's fifth-best total (61) with a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring triple, giving Atlanta's 3-4-5 hitters all of the night's production.
Give Glavine a three-run lead, as Klesko did with his first-inning homer against Mets rookie Octavio Dotel, and he makes a beeline for the ninth inning. This is what it must have been like watching Secretariat break from the pack and bolt for the finish line.
The only thing that stood in his way was a lineup that had produced a .291 batting average in its last 46 games and owned the league's second-best home run total.
Glavine (6-7) made short work of Mike Piazza & Co. After allowing Rickey Henderson's single leading the game, he didn't yield another hit until Henderson's fluke double in the sixth. He departed after making 111 pitches in seven innings and boosted his career record against the Mets to 11-5.
Glavine has won four Silver Slugger Awards as the league's best-hitting pitcher, but he's never won a Gold Glove. That's an oversight on the part of the league's managers and coaches, who vote on the award, because there isn't a better fielding pitcher in either league, with the possible exception of Greg Maddux.
New York tested Glavine four times in the early going and each time he responded, three times with his glove and once with his foot. He deflected John Olerud's grounder, which had RBI single written all over it, to second baseman Bret Boone in the first, then handled three sharp grounders the next two innings.
Dotel will long remember his major league debut, but for all the wrong reasons. His biggest mistake was a pitch that resulted in Klesko's homer, but he cursed himself for a pair of walks that preceded the two-out blast. He staggered into the fifth still down 3-0, then in quick succession walked Ozzie Guillen, allowed a single to Boone, then watched Jones rip a two-run double into the right field corner.
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
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