The New York Yankees may yet come back from a 2-0 deficit and win the 1996 World Series. First, however, they will have to achieve the toughest feat in contemporary baseball - scoring a few runs off the Atlanta Braves' pitching.
Following the postponed Game One 12-1 drubbing on Sunday, the Braves inflicted a smaller but no less comprehensive 4-0 defeat on Monday, thanks to a devastating pitching performance by Greg Maddux, which reduced the normally rowdy Yankee Stadium to virtual silence.
Maddux, who gave up six hits over eight innings, was irresistible. He threw just 82 pitches, 62 of them strikes. Only once was he hit hard to the outfield. "He's an illusionist," the veteran Yankee third baseman Wade Boggs said after he had grounded into a sixth inning double play that killed the Yankees' one real chance of the evening.
And no relief is sight. John Smoltz, Maddux and Tom Glavine - Cy Young winners all - could be the finest starting trio in the history of the sport. "You don't see pitching like this every day," Joe Torre, the Yankees manager, said wryly. "Unfortunately, we're seeing it every day."
Last night, as the Series moved to Atlanta for Game Three, it was Glavine on the mound. Glavine just happens to lead the major leagues with 106 victories in the last six seasons and boasts a combined 4-2 record and 1.83 ERA over three World Series in 1991, 1992 and 1995.
With its tiny margins between success and failure, baseball is the greater leveller among sports. In the last three games of the National League championship series against St Louis and the first two of the World Series, the Braves have outscored their opponents by a combined 48-2, and that kind of streak cannot last much longer.
But the Yankees can draw scant consolation. To bring the Series back to New York for the final two games, they must now take two out of three in Atlanta where the games will be played under National League rules, without the designated hitter.
Only two teams in Series history have lost the first two games at home and gone on to win. Far more likely that Atlanta will emulate the equally awesome 1975/76 Cincinnati Reds, and wrap up a second consecutive championship with a sweep.
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