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. 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 after this afternoon's finale.
"They picked up a game yesterday, so it was important to go out and get it back," Glavine said. "We didn't want to go into tomorrow without an opportunity to win the series."
Glavine, who has suffered the worst support among the starters, had plenty of help. Besides Ryan Klesko's ninth homer, a three-run shot in the first that helped spoil Octavio Dotel's major league debut, 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.
"For us to get (Glavine) three runs in the first inning, it must have felt like Christmas to him," Jones said.
Give Glavine (6-7) a three-run lead 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, who has reeled off three straight wins to move to within a game of .500 for the first time since he was 3-4 on May 19, 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 allowing four hits and one run in seven innings and boosted his career record against the Mets to 11-5.
"It's been kind of two seasons for me," Glavine said. "The first four weeks were terrible and the last six weeks have been pretty good."
A Mets team accustomed to seeing Glavine throw as many change-ups as fastballs was surprised by his approach. He threw only a handful of change-ups, relying instead on a fastball that had good velocity and outstanding movement.
"I had a good fastball, and I was effectively wild with it," he said. "That's probably the least amount of off-speed stuff I've thrown in a game in two years. It wasn't by design. Sometimes it's OK to be effectively wild with your location."
Dotel long will remember his debut, but for all the wrong reasons. His biggest mistake was the 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.
Suddenly a series that had the makings of a disaster is back to where it started, and the Braves have Greg Maddux on the mound this afternoon.
"We win tomorrow, and we've got them right back to where we want them," Jones said. "If we keep them four, five, six games out, at arm's length, it makes every meeting between the two of us a must-win for them."