The 1991 National League Championship Series was played between the Atlanta Braves (94–68) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (98–64), with the Braves coming out on top in the Series 4–3. It was considered one of the best-pitched seven-game series of the modern era, featuring three 1–0 finishes and four shutouts. The Braves went on to lose in the World Series to the Minnesota Twins in seven games.
The Pirates had the best record in the National League in 1991, and were the first NL East team to win consecutive division championships since the Philadelphia Phillies, their in-state rivals, during their run of three straight NL East championships, from 1976–1978 (in fact, the Pirates won the 1991 NL East title in a game against their rivals). and were expected to win this Series and advance to the World Series. However, the Braves, who went from last place in the National League West in 1990 to first place in the division in 1991, were able to pull off the upset in their memorable run to the World Series versus the Minnesota Twins.
|1991 National League Championship Series|
|MVP||Steve Avery (Atlanta)|
|Umpires||Doug Harvey, Frank Pulli, Dana DeMuth, Eric Gregg, Bob Davidson, Bruce Froemming|
|TV announcers||Jack Buck and Tim McCarver|
|Radio announcers||John Rooney and Jerry Coleman|
Atlanta won the series, 4–3.
|1||October 9||Atlanta Braves – 1, Pittsburgh Pirates – 5||Three Rivers Stadium||2:51||57,347|
|2||October 10||Atlanta Braves – 1, Pittsburgh Pirates – 0||Three Rivers Stadium||2:46||57,533|
|3||October 12||Pittsburgh Pirates – 3, Atlanta Braves – 10||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium||3:21||50,905|
|4||October 13||Pittsburgh Pirates – 3, Atlanta Braves – 2 (10 innings)||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium||3:43||51,109|
|5||October 14||Pittsburgh Pirates – 1, Atlanta Braves – 0||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium||2:51||51,109|
|6||October 16||Atlanta Braves – 1, Pittsburgh Pirates – 0||Three Rivers Stadium||3:09||54,508|
|7||October 17||Atlanta Braves – 4, Pittsburgh Pirates – 0||Three Rivers Stadium||3:04||46,932|
|WP: Doug Drabek (1–0) LP: Tom Glavine (0–1) Sv: Bob Walk (1)|
ATL: David Justice (1)
PIT: Andy Van Slyke (1)
The Pirates proved they would be tough to eliminate early when they stifled the Braves offense behind 1990 Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek and won the first game 5–1. Pittsburgh center fielder Andy Van Slyke's first-inning home run off of 1991 Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine put them up 1–0. In the third, Jay Bell hit a leadoff single, then Van Slyke's double and Bobby Bonilla's single scored a run each. Steve Buechele doubled to lead off the sixth and scored on Doug Drabek's two-out double. The Pirates scored their last run in the eighth on Jose Lind's bases-loaded sacrifice fly off of Mike Stanton. David Justice hit a home run in the ninth inning off reliever Bob Walk for the Braves' only run.
An injury to Pirates starter Doug Drabek was to have major ramifications for the Series. Drabek slid into third and injured himself in the sixth inning, leaving the game with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring. The injury cost Drabek an early start in either Game 4 or 5, and it ensured he would not be available for a third start in Game 7 if the Series went that far, as it ultimately did.
|WP: Steve Avery (1–0) LP: Zane Smith (0–1) Sv: Alejandro Peña (1)|
In Game 2, both teams were kept in check by the outstanding pitching performances of Zane Smith for Pittsburgh and Steve Avery for Atlanta. However, Avery and the Braves would come out on top 1–0, after David Justice singled to lead off and Mark Lemke picked up a double and the only RBI of the game in the sixth inning. David Justice scored from second when Lemke's seemingly routine grounder got past Pirate third baseman Steve Buechele, allowing Justice to score. Alejandro Peña got the save and the combined shutout was complete. The series was now tied 1–1.
|WP: John Smoltz (1–0) LP: John Smiley (0–1) Sv: Alejandro Peña (2)|
PIT: Orlando Merced (1), Jay Bell (1)
ATL: Greg Olson (1), Ron Gant (1), Sid Bream (1)
With the Series tied at one game apiece, John Smoltz faced off against the Pirates' twenty-game winner, John Smiley. Orlando Merced hit Smoltz's first pitch over the right field wall for a home run, but in the bottom of the first, two-out doubles by Ron Gant, David Justice and Brian Hunter put the Braves up 2–1 before Greg Olson's two-run homer to left made it 4–1. In the second, Lonnie Smith was hit by a pitch with two outs and scored on Terry Pendleton's double. Smiley was gone after that inning. In the third, Rafael Belliard's RBI single with two on off of Bill Landrum made it 6–1 Braves. Jose Lind's RBI single in the fourth with two on made it 6–2 Braves, then Jay Bell's home run in the seventh made it 6–3 and knock Smoltz out of the game, but the Braves got that run back in the bottom of the inning on Gant's home run off of Bob Kipper. In the top of the eighth, Alejandro Peña struck out Jay Bell with the bases loaded to end the Pirates' last threat. In the bottom of the inning, Rosario Rodriguez walked two to lead off and after a sacrifice bunt, Sid Bream's three-run home run increased the Braves' lead to 10–3. Pena retired the Pirates in order in the ninth to give the Braves a 2–1 series lead.
|WP: Stan Belinda (1–0) LP: Kent Mercker (0–1)|
The lone extra-inning game of the Series came in Atlanta before 51,109 fans. The Braves struck first when Lonnie Smith doubled to lead off the first off of Randy Tomlin, moved to third on a line out, and scored on Ron Gant's groundout, then three straight singles by David Justice, Brian Hunter and Greg Olson made it 2–0 Braves. However, they would not score for the rest of the game. Don Slaught's RBI single with two on in the second off of Charlie Leibrandt cut the lead to 2–1, then Gary Redus singled with two outs in the fifth and scored on a Jay Bell single along with a Braves error to tie the game.
The Pirates tied the series with a run in the top of the tenth when Mike LaValliere, off of Mark Wohlers, singled in Andy Van Slyke, who had stolen second after being walked by Kent Mercker. Stan Belinda retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the inning.
|WP: Zane Smith (1–1) LP: Tom Glavine (0–2) Sv: Roger Mason (1)|
Zane Smith had his second excellent game of the Series, but this time he won, beating Tom Glavine and the Braves 1–0 in almost a mirror image of Smith's start in Game 2. However, in Game 2, Smith had given up the one run and lost.
Controversy surrounded this game when David Justice appeared to score on a single to left, but he seemed to miss third base and was called out on an appeal. Replays were inconclusive, but Justice did stumble over third base, and the umpires called him out, preserving Smith's shutout.
The lone run in this game came when José Lind hit a simple RBI single in the fifth.
|WP: Steve Avery (2–0) LP: Doug Drabek (1–1) Sv: Alejandro Peña (3)|
Pittsburgh hosted one of the best pitcher's duels of all-time on October 16, 1991, between Steve Avery and Doug Drabek. In the end, identical to Avery's last start, a combination of Avery and Alejandro Peña shut out the Pirates for all nine innings. The Pirates only got four hits. However, this time the Braves didn't score a run all the way through eight innings. Drabek matched Avery, pitch for pitch. But in the ninth inning, with the score tied 0–0, Greg Olson raked a double down the left field line that scored Ron Gant, who walked and stole second, and took the lead off a weary Drabek. He had pitched a complete game, but was the loser after the Pirates could not get Gary Varsho home from third in the bottom of the ninth. The Braves had not scored a run since the first inning of Game 4, a futility streak that reached 26 2⁄3 innings before Gant scored the winning run.
|WP: John Smoltz (2–0) LP: John Smiley (0–2)|
ATL: Brian Hunter (1)
The Braves scored three runs in the first inning on Ron Gant's sacrifice fly with runners on first and third, followed by a Brian Hunter two-run home run, and never looked back. Twenty-game winner John Smiley made the start, fared poorly, was yanked after two-thirds of an inning and lost to John Smoltz, who shut out the Pirates. Although Bob Walk was masterful in middle relief, it was too little, too late, even though he pulled his groin trying to help his cause attempting to stretch a single into a double in the bottom of the seventh. Hunter's RBI double in the fifth with two on capped the scoring as the Braves won 4–0 and nabbed the pennant. After Atlanta had gone 26 2⁄3 innings without scoring, the Pirates themselves went the final 22 1⁄3 innings without scoring. That streak would reach 30 innings before José Lind snapped it with a home run in the eighth inning of Game 1 in the 1992 NLCS.
Avery won the Series MVP award. Pitching 161⁄3 innings, the Braves starter did not allow a run, giving up nine hits and walking four while striking out seventeen. Avery said, "It's been the best time of my life."
The Braves scored fourteen runs in the games Smiley pitched (Games 3 and 7), including nine off Smiley, but only five runs in the other five games combined. Smiley had been the Pirates' biggest winner in 1991, notching twenty victories for the only time in his career.
The Atlanta Braves' World Series appearance was their first since 1958, and their first since moving to Atlanta in 1966. The Braves lost a memorable and dramatic seven-game series to the Minnesota Twins.
|Total attendance: 369,443 Average attendance: 52,778|
The 1991 Atlanta Braves season was the 26th in Atlanta and the 121st overall. They became the first team in the National League to go from last place one year to first place the next. This feat was also accomplished by the 1991 Minnesota Twins. The last Major League Baseball team to accomplish this was the 1890 Louisville Colonels of the American Association.
The Braves had a last place finish in 1990 but managed to overtake the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West clinching the division on the next to the last day of the regular season.1991 Pittsburgh Pirates season
The 1991 Pittsburgh Pirates season was the 110th in franchise history; the 105th in the National League. This was their 22nd season at Three Rivers Stadium. For the second consecutive season, the Pirates won the National League East Division Title with a record of 98–64. They were defeated four games to three by the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 National League Championship Series. During the season, John Smiley won 20 games – the last to do so for the Pirates in the 20th century.Andrea Joyce
Andrea Joyce Kuslits (born August 17, 1954), better known as Andrea Joyce, is an American sportscaster who works for NBC Sports after working 10 years with CBS Sports.Brian Hunter (first baseman)
Brian Ronald Hunter (born March 4, 1968) is a former professional baseball player. He played all or part of nine seasons in Major League Baseball between 1991 and 2000 for the Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. While he was primarily a first baseman, he also appeared in nearly 100 games as an outfielder. He is currently a scout for the Braves.Ex-Cubs Factor
The Ex-Cubs Factor (or Ex-Cub Factor) is a seemingly spurious correlation that was seen as essentially a corollary to the Curse of the Billy Goat. Widely published in the 1990s, the hypothesis asserted that since the appearance by the Chicago Cubs in the 1945 World Series, any baseball team headed into the World Series with three or more former Cubs on its roster has "a critical mass of Cubness" and a strong likelihood of failure.Game seven
A game seven is the final game of a best of seven series. This game can occur in the postseasons for Major League Baseball (MLB) (League Championship Series and World Series), the National Basketball Association (NBA) (all rounds of the NBA playoffs), and the National Hockey League (NHL) (all rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs).
The game is generally played at the site of the team holding the home advantage across the series.
The nature of a best-of-seven series requires that the series be tied 3–3 going into game seven, such that either team can take the series (advancing further in the playoffs or winning the championship) by winning the game. Because of this decisive nature, game sevens add an element of drama to their sports.
Aside from North American sports leagues, game sevens are also a fixture in many other sports around the world, mostly in baseball, basketball, and ice hockey leagues. Most codes of football do not employ a best-of-seven series (or any best-of-x series in general), hence game sevens are not played in those leagues.
Some playoff rounds (such as MLB's current Division Series) are played in a best of five format, such that game 5 has similar qualities to those described above, though the suspense and drama have less time to build in a shorter series. Furthermore, the World Series of 1903, 1919, 1920, and 1921 were played in a best of nine format, though none of the four went to a decisive game 9.
The game seven is comparable to a final or to a single game in a single-elimination tournament or to a one-game playoff. A championship series' game seven is equivalent to the Super Bowl game in the National Football League in that the game's winner is the league's champion for the season.John Smoltz
John Andrew Smoltz (born May 15, 1967), nicknamed "Smoltzie" and "Marmaduke," is an American former baseball pitcher who played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1988 to 2009, all but the last year with the Atlanta Braves. An eight-time All-Star, Smoltz was part of a celebrated trio of starting pitchers, along with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who propelled Atlanta to perennial pennant contention in the 1990s, highlighted by a championship in the 1995 World Series. He won the National League (NL) Cy Young Award in 1996 after posting a record of 24–8, equaling the most victories by an NL pitcher since 1972. Though predominantly known as a starter, Smoltz was converted to a reliever in 2001 after his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and spent four years as the team's closer before returning to a starting role. In 2002, he set the NL record with 55 saves and became only the second pitcher in history (joining Dennis Eckersley) to record both a 20-win season and a 50-save season. He is the only pitcher in major league history to record both 200 wins and 150 saves.
Smoltz was one of the most prominent pitchers in playoff history, posting a record of 15–4 with a 2.67 earned run average (ERA) in 41 career postseason games, and was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1992 NL Championship Series; Andy Pettitte later broke his record for career postseason wins. Smoltz led the NL in wins, winning percentage, strikeouts and innings pitched twice each, and his NL total of 3,084 strikeouts ranked fifth in league history when he retired. He also holds the Braves franchise record for career strikeouts (3,011), and the record for the most career games pitched for the Braves (708) since the club's move to Atlanta in 1966; from 2004 to 2014, he held the franchise record for career saves. Smoltz left the Braves after 2008 and split his final season with the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. Since retiring as a player, he has served as a color commentator and analyst on television. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, his first year of eligibility.Phillies–Pirates rivalry
The Phillies–Pirates rivalry is a Major League Baseball (MLB) rivalry between the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates. Both clubs are members of MLB's National League (NL); the Phillies are members of the NL East division, while the Pirates are members of the NL Central division. The rivalry was considered by some to be one of the best in the NL. The rivalry started when the Pittsburgh Pirates entered NL play in their fifth season of 1887, four years after the Phillies.The Phillies and Pirates had remained together after the NL split into two divisions in 1969. During the period of two-division play (1969–1993), the two NL East division rivals won the two highest numbers of division championships, reigning almost exclusively as NL East champions in the 1970s and again in the early 1990s, the Pirates 9, the Phillies 6; together, the two teams' 15 championships accounted for more than half of the 25 NL East championships during that span.After the Pirates moved to the NL Central in 1994, the teams face each other only in two series each year and the rivalry has diminished. However, many fans, especially older ones, retain their dislike for the other team and regional differences between Eastern and Western Pennsylvania still fuel the rivalry. The rivalry is mirrored in the National Hockey League's so-called "Battle of Pennsylvania".Rosario Rodríguez
Rosario Isabel Rodríguez Echavarria (born July 8, 1969 in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He debuted on September 1, 1989 with the Reds and against his future team, the Pirates. He was the youngest player to play in the National League in 1989.
Rodríguez attended high school in Mexico City. In March 1987, the Cincinnati Reds signed him as an amateur free agent at the age of 17. He spent the 1987 one season with the Reds' rookie team, pitching in 17 games and posting a 1–5 record and a 3.08 earned run average (ERA). Rodríguez split the 1988 season between the Cedar Rapids Reds and the Greensboro Hornets. With Greensboro, he pitched in 23 games with an ERA of only 1.52. He spent the 1989 season with the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League, where he pitched in 28 games, won three and lost none with a 4.47 ERA. At the conclusion of the minor league season, he was called up by the Reds to make his debut.
Rodríguez made his major league debut on September 1, 1989 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Over the course of the 1989 Cincinnati Reds season, he pitched in seven games, posted a 1–1 record, and was the youngest player in the National League that season at the age of 20. He spent in the off-season in the Mexican League, then in March 1991 was signed to a one-year deal along with Rob Dibble, Chris Sabo, and Reggie Jefferson. He again spent most of the season in the minors, mainly playing for Chattanooga but also playing five games for the Nashville Sounds. He pitched in 36 games for Chattanooga and had a 4.36 ERA. During the 1990 Cincinnati Reds season, he pitched in nine games and had a 6.10 ERA, not winning or losing any games.While Rodríguez was on the winter roster for the Reds, he was waived by the team in December. On December 20, the Pittsburgh Pirates claimed him off waivers. He was scheduled to be in camp by February 21, but due to visa problems, he did not arrive in camp until March. He split time with the Buffalo Bisons and the Pirates that season. With Buffalo, he pitched in 48 games and posted a 4–3 record and a 3.00 ERA. During the 1991 Pittsburgh Pirates season, he pitched in 18 games and had an ERA of 4.11. He also had one appearance during the 1991 National League Championship Series, allowing three runs in one inning against the Atlanta Braves.His final professional season was in 1992 with the Bisons. In four games, Rodríguez had an ERA of 18.00. He spent three separate occasions on the disabled list that season with shoulder trouble, the third stint in June costing him the season. He was released from the Pirates in March 1993, ending his professional career.Steve Buechele
Steven Bernard Buechele (born September 26, 1961) is a former Major League Baseball third baseman, coach, and current front office executive for the Texas Rangers. Buechele played from 1985 to 1995 for the Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago Cubs. He joined the Rangers in 1985 after he was named the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year. He was traded from the Rangers to the Pirates in 1991 following the emergence of Dean Palmer. He returned to the Rangers for an eighth season in 1995.
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