Baseball: Atlanta's attack atones

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(First Edition)

DULY CHASTENED after losing game one in extra innings, the Atlanta Braves have restored order to the National League Championship Series by filling their boots against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The free-swinging Braves reawoke with a vengeance on Thursday night as Veterans Stadium resounded to the tune of 16 hits - equalling a NL play-off record - and 14 runs - a new major league playoff landmark. The game's seven home runs were another play-off record. 'We got our butts kicked,' Jim Fregosi, the Phillies manager, conceded.

The tone for the Braves' 14-3 rout was set in the first inning by a towering two-run drive from Fred McGriff, the first baseman whose arrival from San Diego was intrinsic to the 39-11 run-in that allowed Atlanta to seize the National League West title from the San Francisco Giants on the final day of the regular season. When six Braves, led by Jeff Blauser's home run, crossed the plate in the third, starter Tommy Greene was gone.

Damon Berryhill and Terry Pendleton also homered against a typically fragile Phillies' bullpen, while Ron Gant collected two doubles and three RBIs. Atlanta's four homers constituted a post-season record for a franchise that once boasted the immortal bat of Hank Aaron, the most prolific home-run hitter in major league history.

What made the assault all the more surprising was the identity of the victim. Greene, after all, had restricted his former employers to a batting average of just .111 during the regular season. McGriff and Blauser, moreover, had never mustered a hit against him.

Unable to locate the strike zone with any consistency, however, Greene, hitherto unbeaten at home this year, erred by serving up a first-pitch fastball to McGriff. He turned to see the ball rebounding off the concrete facing of the upper deck, only the seventh time in the 22-year history of Veterans Stadium that a blow of such magnitude had been recorded.

In stark contrast, it was all a bit of a breeze for Greg Maddux, one of two 20-game winners on the Braves' vaunted pitching staff. Although Dave Hollins deposited him for a two-run homer in the fourth, the 1992 National League Cy Young award winner scattered five hits over seven innings and picked up his first play-off victory after failing to do so for the Chicago Cubs in 1989.

Hostilities recommence tonight at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for the first of three games at the home of the NL champions.