In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Atlanta Braves win their second straight National League Pennant with a stunning ninth-inning rally against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 7 of the NLCS at Fulton County Stadium. Trailing 2-0 against Doug Drabek, the Braves scored three runs in the ninth inning capped by Francisco Cabrera’s pinch his single scoring runs with two outs, as Sid Bream slid under the tag of Catcher Mike LaValliere with the winning run.
It was the second straight season the Braves and Pirates met the National League Championship Series. In 1991, the Braves young pitching staff frustrated the Pirates, winning the final two games at Three Rivers Stadium to advance to World Series. While the Braves young pitching staff was just beginning to show their dominance, there was a sense of desperation in Pittsburgh as the Pirates window of opportunity was on the verge of closing with the pending free agency of Barry Bonds, who was clearly preparing to leave the team for a big contract in the off-season.
In the opener in Atlanta, John Smoltz who won Game 7 a year earlier got the start for the Braves and again frustrated the Pirates. Allowing one run on four hits in eight innings as the Braves recorded a 5-1 win. In Game 2, the Braves bats bashed the Buccos with a 14-hit attack, winning the game 13-5 as Ron Gant supplied the big blow with a Grand Slam in the fifth inning.
As the series shifted to Three Rivers Stadium, the Pirates turned to Rookie knuckleballer Tim Wakefield who frustrated the Braves all game, allowing two runs on three hits to earn a complete game, 3-2 win. The Braves though continued to control the series in Game 4, winning 6-4 as John Smoltz got the best of Doug Drabek to earn his second win of the NLCS. Otis Nixon was the hitting star for the Braves with four hits, including a pair of doubles, with two RBI and two runs scored.
Down 3-1 the Pirates faced desperation time in Pittsburgh as they came out slugging in Game 5, scoring four runs in the first inning with three consecutive doubles by Barry Bonds, Jeff King, and Lloyd McClendon. The Pirates would go on to win the game 7-1, as Bob Walk went the distance, allowing one run on three hits. As the series returned to Atlanta for Game 6, Tim Wakefield got his second complete game win of the series as the Pirates forced a seventh game with a 13-4 win. The Pirates bats all game got the best of Atlanta’s pitching, pounding Tom Glavine and the bullpen with 13 hits, sparked by an eight-run rally in the second inning that was capped by a three-run blast off the bat of Jay Bell.
In Game 7, John Smoltz faced Doug Drabek for the third time in the NLCS. This time it was Drabek getting the best of Smoltz, as the Pirates scratched a pair of runs, with an Orlando Merced sacrifice fly in the first inning and an Andy Van Slyke RBI single in the sixth inning. Leading 2-0, Drabek took the mound in the ninth inning, looking for the complete game to end three years of frustration for the Pirates, who had lost in the NLCS in 1990 and 1991. The Braves rally started with a double by Terry Pendleton, next up was David Justice who reached on an error by the usually sure-handed Jose Lind at second base. Following a walk to Sid Bream, Pirates Manager Jim Leyland brought in closer Stan Belinda with the bases loaded and nobody out. Rob Gant the first batter Belinda faced hit a deep fly to left field to score Pendleton to make it 2-1. Damon Berryhill the next batter walked, putting the winning run in scoring position. Brian Hunter came up pinch-hitting for Rafael Belliard and failed to move the runners, popping up just beyond the infield. Down to their last out and without a big bat on the bench, Braves manager Bobby Cox called upon Francisco Cabrera to pinch hit. Cabrera had just ten at-bats in the regular season and was only on the roster because of an injury to Catcher Greg Olson. Cabrera after getting ahead in the count 2-0, drove a 2-1 fastball into short left, to score Justice with the tying run, while the slow-footed Sid Bream just slid past Mike Lavalliere’s tag for the winning run, as Barry Bonds throw was just off line. With a 3-2 win, the Braves were on their way to the World Series again.
The following celebration became notorious for the Braves, as two-sport start Deion Sanders repeatedly threw buckets of ice water on announcer Tim McCarver in the clubhouse. The Braves would go on to lose a second straight World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays, as their playoff failures would overshadow their record-breaking streak of postseason appearances. The Pirates meanwhile went on to experience hard times after the 1992 NLCS, as they had 20 straight losing seasons.