Originally created 10/17/01

Braves notebook



PHOENIX -- The Braves were anxious to get catcher Javy Lopez on their NLCS roster and he provided them with enough proof of his improving left ankle during a Tuesday morning workout.

Just before the deadline for turning in rosters, Lopez was added and first baseman Wes Helms was dropped.

"He looked real good today," manager Bobby Cox said. "I don't think he can catch nine innings today or maybe not tomorrow, but certainly by Friday or Saturday he would be good to go nine."

Give credit to the team's medical staff, particularly head trainer Dave Pursley, for spending hours treating Lopez's ankle. Lopez also said a new brace he's wearing gives additional support and lessens the pain.

"Thinking about playing 140 games and not playing the most important part of the season was frustrating for me," he said.

Lopez, who missed the last week of the season and the Division Series after suffering a high ankle sprain, didn't start Tuesday's Game 1, but pinch hit in the eighth inning and stayed in the game. He showed no effects from the injury, moving effectively to block Steve Karsay's low pitch with Matt Williams at the plate.

"I was a little concerned about my ankle, but it felt pretty good," he said. "I wasn't thinking about pain. I can go nine innings if (Cox) wants me to."

The decision to activate Lopez will lessen the team defensively, but his bat will be a welcome addition to the lineup. But the fact is, his impact isn't nearly so great as you might think. Keeping in mind that he rarely catches Greg Maddux, the club's winning percentage with him is .590 and the staff's ERA is 3.77 since he became a regular in 1996. Without him, the winning percentage is .638 and the ERA is 3.08.

Marcus Giles sent a Randy Johnson pitch to the right field wall in Tuesday's first inning, then right fielder Reggie Sanders leaped at the wall in the sixth to glove another drive, this one hit with a broken bat.

"It's a game of inches and today the inches got the better part of me," Giles said.

Amazingly, Giles cracked his bat while grounding out in the third inning, but didn't notice it until he reached the plate in the ninth.

"It was stupid on my part," he said. "I should have checked my bat."

Brian Jordan knew Johnson would throw his trademark slider, but he still couldn't touch it. The right fielder left three runners on in Tuesday's 2-0 loss, including two in the ninth inning when he struck out for a second time.

"He throws it so hard and it breaks so much," Jordan said. "I'm not going to say it's unhittable, I've hit it before, but today it was unhittable to me."

Catcher Paul Bako arose at 5 a.m. to take a flight from New Orleans and rejoined the team Tuesday morning after missing Monday's workout to be with his wife, Laurie, who gave birth to their second child, a boy named Will. If he gulped on seeing his name in the lineup, he hid it well.

"It's going to be a wild experience," said the left-handed-hitting Bako on facing Johnson for the first time. "I figure if my wife can do what she did yesterday, I can face the Big Unit and battle him."

Bako put the ball in play in both of his at-bats against Johnson, rolling into infield outs before Lopez pinch hit for him in the eighth.

How Tom Glavine fares in tonight's Game 2 will depend, to a certain degree, on the home plate umpire's strike zone. If Jeff Kellogg calls borderline strikes, Glavine will be effective. If not, it will be a battle of wills between Glavine, Kellogg and the Diamondback hitters.

"The home plate umpire is not factored into my equation preparation-wise until I sit down (Tuesday) and get ready to do the chart (of Maddux's pitches) and I see who the first-base umpire is," Glavine said. "Every umpire as a reputation whether he's a good pitcher's umpire or he's a good hitter's umpire.

"As a pitcher, your job is to go out and establish that you're going to throw strikes. If you do that, you're going to start to get the benefit of some calls, whether it be borderline inside, borderline outside. If you can establish that you're able to throw the ball where you want to, then you can expect to get anything borderline."

BY THE NUMBERS: Tuesday's starters, Maddux and Johnson, have combined to win 457 games during their careers. Yet, they both have been less than stellar in the postseason, Johnson entering the game having lost his last seven playoff starts, while Maddux had won just one of his last seven.

John Smoltz is just the second pitcher in the last 40 years to win 150 games as a starter, then save 10 games as a closer. Dennis Eckersley is the other.

Having Smoltz handle save situations has been a blessing for Karsay. The deposed closer has a 1.98 ERA in non-save situations, 4.11 ERA with a save on the line.

The Braves point to the June 22 trade for Karsay and Steve Reed as instrumental in turning around the bullpen, and the numbers reflect the difference. Through June 22, the relief corps had a 4.55 ERA; since then they've had the best relief ERA (3.10) in the league.

Chipper Jones is a .324 career hitter in the NLCS and has solidified a reputation as a hitter who delivers in the clutch by accumulating 78 postseason hits, only eight behind Pete Rose, baseball's true Mr. October. He has a .500 on-base percentage in his last 13 postseason games, and had failed to reach base in just nine of his 69 career postseason games.

GAME OF INCHES: Marcus Giles sent a Randy Johnson pitch to the right field wall in Tuesday's first inning, then right fielder Reggie Sanders leaped at the wall in the sixth to glove another drive, this one hit with a broken bat.

"It's a game of inches and today the inches got the better part of me," Giles said.

Amazingly, Giles cracked his bat while grounding out in the third inning, but didn't notice it until he reached the plate in the ninth.

"It was stupid on my part," he said. "I should have checked my bat."

UNABLE TO DELIVER: Brian Jordan knew Johnson would throw his trademark slider, but he still couldn't touch it. The right fielder left three runners on in Tuesday's 2-0 loss, including two in the ninth inning when he struck out for a second time.

"He throws it so hard and it breaks so much," Jordan said. "I'm not going to say it's unhittable, I've hit it before, but today it was unhittable to me."

PROUD PAPA: Catcher Paul Bako arose at 5 a.m. to take a flight from New Orleans and rejoined the team Tuesday morning after missing Monday's workout to be with his wife, Laurie, who gave birth to their second child, a boy named Will. If he gulped on seeing his name in the lineup, he hid it well.

"It's going to be a wild experience," said the left-handed-hitting Bako on facing Johnson for the first time. "I figure if my wife can do what she did yesterday, I can face the Big Unit and battle him."

Bako put the ball in play in both of his at-bats against Johnson, rolling into infield outs before Lopez pinch hit for him in the eighth.

GAMESMANSHIP: How Tom Glavine fares in tonight's Game 2 will depend, to a certain degree, on the home plate umpire's strike zone. If Jeff Kellogg calls borderline strikes, Glavine will be effective. If not, it will be a battle of wills between Glavine, Kellogg and the Diamondback hitters.

"The home plate umpire is not factored into my equation preparation-wise until I sit down (Tuesday) and get ready to do the chart (of Maddux's pitches) and I see who the first-base umpire is," Glavine said. "Every umpire as a reputation whether he's a good pitcher's umpire or he's a good hitter's umpire.

"As a pitcher, your job is to go out and establish that you're going to throw strikes. If you do that, you're going to start to get the benefit of some calls, whether it be borderline inside, borderline outside. If you can establish that you're able to throw the ball where you want to, then you can expect to get anything borderline."

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.