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This day in 1998: Braves beat Padres to stay alive in NLCS

Atlanta’s bats came alive, giving Dennis Martinez his final MLB win

Andres Galarraga

Six innings into Game 4 of the 1998 NLCS it looked like the underdog Padres would be putting the Braves to rest in the most efficient way possible, but the ailing Atlanta offense was resuscitated in the seventh inning thanks to the work of Doctors Hamilton, Myers, and Miceli. The six runs scored in the top of the seventh inning were enough to buy the Braves another day of life.

The game looked like more of the same from the onset, with San Diego striking first in the third inning, scoring two runs before the Braves had registered as much as a hit. Tony Gwynn hit a two-out double to send Quilvio Veras home from first with the game’s first run, then scored the second two batters later on a single by postseason legend Jim Leyritz.

Atlanta responded in the next frame, albeit only enough to halve their deficit. Keith Lockhart broke up Hamilton’s no-hitter with a triple on the first pitch of the fourth inning, then scored on a single by the next batter, Chipper Jones. Hamilton induced a 6-4-3 double play on the very next pitch, then got Ryan Klesko to also ground to Chris Gomez for the third out.

Hamilton worked around a Michael Tucker single in the fifth inning, and still looked sharp while retiring the first two batters of the sixth. The third, fourth, and fifth batters of the frame — also the third, fourth, and fifth batters of Atlanta’s lineup — proved more troublesome. A double, a walk, and a single turned into the tying run, and could have led to more had Andres Galarraga not gotten thrown out trying to take third on Klesko’s RBI single.

San Diego quickly snatched the lead back in the bottom of the inning on Leyritz’s fourth home run of the 1998 postseason. His one-out solo shot off of Braves starter Denny Neagle put the Padres up 3-2. San Diego threatened to add on when Ruben Rivera put himself in scoring position with a double two batters later, but Atlanta manager Bobby Cox mitigated the danger by turning to 44-year-old Dennis Martinez. “El Presidente,” being used primarily in relief for the first season in over two decades, retired the only batter he faced; Chris Gomez grounded his third pitch harmlessly to second baseman Keith Lockhart for the third out.

That’s when the dam broke.

Javy Lopez smashed Hamilton’s first pitch of the seventh inning over Qualcomm Stadium’s right field fence to tie the game, then Andruw Jones jumped on the very next pitch for a single, ending Hamilton’s outing. Padres manager Bruce Bochy called on Randy Myers, which in retrospect looks very much like the wrong call. So too does the decision to bring in Dan Miceli to take over five batters later after Myers had allowed one run to score and loaded the bases- all after retiring the first two batters he faced. Miceli promptly gave up a grand slam to Andres Galarraga, giving the Braves an 8-3 lead.

That score would hold, as the Padres were shut out over their final three innings by John Rocker, Odalis Perez, Rudy Seanez, and Kerry Ligtenberg. Atlanta was equally ineffective against Brian Boehringer and Mark Langston, but it didn’t matter at that point. The Braves not only won, but did so in such a way that demonstrated clearly why and how they won 106 games in the regular season, a total reached only three other times since 1909.