Thursday, October 9, 1997
Glavine deals the Marlins
a slow death

The Cincinnati Enquirer

ATLANTA - Tom Glavine concedes nothing. Not the score. Not the count. Not the circumstances. Not the stakes.

His pitching principles never waver, and his pitching style is identical in October as it is in April. In essence, it is this: Never give a batter an even break.

The Atlanta left-hander is not the best pitcher among the Braves, but he is surely the most aggravating. He is the one least likely to take the easy way out of an easy game, and most likely to throw a curve ball on the corner with three balls on the batter.

Glavine is like a teacher who gives tests on the last day of school. He is a guy who elicits groans.

"I think Tommy would probably be the height of frustration," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said Wednesday. "A guy like Kevin Brown - he's going to come at you. But Tommy never gives in . . . It ain't going to happen."

Glavine squared the National League Championship Series Wednesday afternoon with a 7-1 victory over the Florida Marlins, and he was as uncompromising in the eighth inning as he was in the first.

Most pitchers with big leads are inclined to challenge a hitter's reflexes. Tom Glavine prefers to challenge their patience.

"I'm going to be pretty stubborn about the way I pitch," he said. "I'm going to force them to beat me at my game. I know with a lot of guys, when your team has the lead, they expect to see more fastballs, and more pitches to hit. But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to stick to my game plan. I'm going to keep trying to hit corners and keep trying to hit succeeds because that's what makes me successful."

Over the last 10 years, Glavine has been the most successful left-handed pitcher in baseball. He has won 151 regular-season games in that span, and earned 19 post-season starts. This has not all happened by accident.

Sticks to the formula

Like Coca-Cola, Glavine is an Atlanta institution that succeeds by scrupulously sticking to a proven formula. He has the sensibilities of a craftsman and the stubbornness of Alec Guinness in The Bridge On The River Kwai.

"Anytime I pick up a ball, there is a purpose to it," he said. "I do a lot of throwing on the side, and I just don't throw to throw. If a ball comes out of my hand badly and doesn't go where I want it to, I know why. About five or six years ago - when I wasn't doing so well, it would take me five or six pitches to know what was going on. Not any more."

Glavine's stuff is not nearly so overpowering as that of John Smoltz, and his control is not nearly so fine as Greg Maddux. Yet after Maddux had lost Tuesday's NLCS opener, manager Bobby Cox had the ideal candidate to even the series.

Glavine has pitched so many pressure ballgames in his career, that he is almost impervious to anxiety.

"You can take 'em in stride to a degree," he said. "I don't take it in stride to the degree where I become blase and I don't enjoy it . . . But I think one of the big things about having postseason experience is you learn to deal with everything.

Staying the course

"I think the biggest mistake guys tend to make in the postseason is to say, 'Oh, my God. This is the postseason. I've got to pitch better. I've got to swing better, I've got to do this better.' And you try to do things you are not capable of doing."

Whether the Marlins' first-time playoff participants fell prey to this problem is a matter of perception. But it is a matter of fact that Glavine allowed only three hits in 7 innings.

"We didn't have any offense all day," said Florida outfielder Jim Eisenreich. "Even if we hadn't given up the early runs, it wouldn't have made any difference. He had our number today."

The Braves gave Glavine three runs in the first inning, and they extended their lead to 7-0 before Florida finally scored in the top of the eighth inning.

Tom Glavine didn't get sloppy at the end. He got tired. It was the only form of mercy the man ever shows.