1997 National League Championship Series
|Dates:||October 7 – 14|
|MVP:||Liván Hernández (Florida)|
|TV announcers:||Bob Costas, Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker|
|Radio announcers:||Gary Cohen and Jerry Coleman|
|Umpires:||Bruce Froemming, Charlie Williams, Mike Winters, Jerry Layne, Eric Gregg, Frank Pulli|
|NLDS:||Florida Marlins over San Francisco Giants (3–0)|
|Atlanta Braves over Houston Astros (3–0)|
|1997 World Series|
The 1997 National League Championship Series (NLCS) pitted the Florida Marlins against the Atlanta Braves. The Marlins won the series 4–2, and went on to defeat the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series.
Both teams hailed from the NL East division, the 101-win Braves being the division champions while the Marlins made the playoffs courtesy of the wild card. Both the Braves and Marlins swept their opponents during the Division Series. This was the second all-Southern postseason series, the first being in the previous round when Atlanta beat the Houston Astros. However, it was the first all-Southern postseason series to take place entirely in one time zone.
This series marked the high point for the Braves-Marlins rivalry, as the Marlins have made the playoffs only once more since 1997 (2003, which also ended with a World Series title).
Atlanta Braves vs. Florida Marlins
Florida won the series, 4–2.
|1||October 7||Florida Marlins – 5, Atlanta Braves – 3||Turner Field||3:04||49,244|
|2||October 8||Florida Marlins – 1, Atlanta Braves – 7||Turner Field||2:51||48,933|
|3||October 10||Atlanta Braves – 2, Florida Marlins – 5||Pro Player Stadium||2:59||53,857|
|4||October 11||Atlanta Braves – 4, Florida Marlins – 0||Pro Player Stadium||2:48||54,890|
|5||October 12||Atlanta Braves – 1, Florida Marlins – 2||Pro Player Stadium||2:27||51,982|
|6||October 14||Florida Marlins – 7, Atlanta Braves – 4||Turner Field||3:10||50,446|
|WP: Kevin Brown (1–0) LP: Greg Maddux (0–1) Sv: Robb Nen (1)
ATL: Chipper Jones (1), Ryan Klesko (1)
The Marlins scored three unearned runs in the first inning off Greg Maddux, thanks to a Fred McGriff error, when Moisés Alou hit a bases-clearing groundball double past Chipper Jones's glove (who made a weak attempt backhanding the ball). Atlanta got a run back in the bottom of the inning off Florida starter Kevin Brown, but the Marlins were handed two more unearned runs in the third after an error by center fielder Kenny Lofton and went ahead 5–1. Home runs by Chipper Jones and Ryan Klesko drew Atlanta to 5–3 but the Florida bullpen held the Braves hitless over the final three innings. Brown, who went six innings, got the win.
|WP: Tom Glavine (1–0) LP: Alex Fernandez (0–1)
ATL: Ryan Klesko (2), Chipper Jones (2)
The Braves rallied from their sloppy Game 1 and routed pitcher Alex Fernandez, chasing him after 2 2⁄3 innings. A first-inning home run by Ryan Klesko and a third inning homer by Chipper Jones helped Atlanta build a 5–0 lead. Starter Tom Glavine was excellent, giving up just one run in 7 2⁄3 innings. The Braves poured on two more runs in the seventh as they won 7–1. It was learned after the game that Fernandez had been unknowingly pitching with a rotator cuff injury, and would be done for the series.
|WP: Liván Hernández (1–0) LP: John Smoltz (0–1) Sv: Robb Nen (2)
FLA: Gary Sheffield (1)
With the series shifting south to Miami, Game 3 began as a close game. In the top of the fourth inning the Braves loaded the bases with nobody out, but could only score one run on Fred McGriff's sac-fly which scored Kenny Lofton. Gary Sheffield responded with a homerun in the bottom of the fourth. In the sixth, Javy Lopez hit a sac-fly which scored Jeff Blauser. However, the Marlins pulled away in the bottom half of the sixth, when they scored four runs to finish John Smoltz's night. With two on, two out, and with a 1-2 count, Darren Daulton hit a clutch, game-tying double, scoring Édgar Rentería. The big blow came when light-hitting catcher Charles Johnson smacked a 2-2 pitch to left-center, clearing the bases and giving the Marlins a 5-2 lead. Florida starter Tony Saunders did his best to hold the Braves, allowing just two earned runs before Liván Hernández took over. Hernández would get the win as the Marlins took the game 5–2.
The Marlins only had one home run in the entire six-game series (by Gary Sheffield in Game 3).
|WP: Denny Neagle (1–0) LP: Al Leiter (0–1)
ATL: Jeff Blauser (1)
Denny Neagle stepped up and pitched a complete game, four-hit shutout of the Marlins in Game 4. The Braves offense, meanwhile, chipped away at Al Leiter, plating runs in the first and third innings. In the fifth Jeff Blauser launched a solo home run and Fred McGriff doubled in another run, putting the Braves on top 4–0 as Neagle mowed down the Marlins. The win evened the series at 2–2, and with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine scheduled to start Games 5 and 6 and the Florida pitching staff in apparent disarray, the advantage clearly fell with the Braves.
|WP: Liván Hernández (2–0) LP: Greg Maddux (0–2)
ATL: Michael Tucker (1)
After Neagle's gem in Game 4, Game 5 was clearly the pivotal game of the series. If the Marlins lost, the Braves would be up three games to two and going home with an almost certain NL pennant in sight. Liván Hernández replaced Kevin Brown, who had fallen ill that day. The Braves threatened immediately in the 1st inning, with Kenny Lofton hitting a triple and Keith Lockhart being walked, putting runners on the corners with 0 outs. However, Livan regrouped and struck out the heart of the order. Florida scored a run in the first off Greg Maddux, with Bobby Bonilla singling home Devon White. The Braves evened the game with a Michael Tucker home run in the second. The score remained tied at 1–1 as Maddux and Hernández traded scoreless innings. In the bottom of the seventh, Bobby Bonilla doubled and scored on a single by Jeff Conine to give the Marlins a 2-1 lead. Hernández continued to shutdown a befuddled Braves offense. The Braves had a chance for a potential two-out rally in the eighth with Lofton reaching on a walk, but was thrown out trying to steal second base. The game ended with Hernandez striking out Fred McGriff on a called third strike. Hernández pitched a complete game, three-hit, fifteen strikeout masterpiece to reclaim a series lead for the Marlins. The Braves three, four, five hitters went 1-11 with seven strikeouts.
This particular game is remembered for the controversy surrounding an unusually wide strike zone given to Hernández, by umpire Eric Gregg. It was voted as the third-worst called game from 1975–2000 by Baseball America.
Liván Hernández set a record for most strikeouts in a National League Championship Series game with fifteen; just a day earlier Mike Mussina of the Baltimore Orioles had struck out fifteen in the American League Championship Series against the Indians in Game 3.
|WP: Kevin Brown (2–0) LP: Tom Glavine (1–1)|
Back at Turner Field with a World Series appearance looming, the Marlins went back to their ace, Kevin Brown. Facing Tom Glavine, the Marlins exploded out of the gate as they scored four runs in the first. Trouble started immediately with White singling, Rentería walking, and Sheffield singling to load the bases with no outs. Bonilla then smacked a two-run single. After a Conine sac-bunt and Alou intentional walk, Glavine beamed Johnson, scoring Sheffield, making it 3-0. Counsell then grounded out, scoring Bonilla, making it 4-0. The Braves struck back in the bottom half with Ryan Klesko singling home Lockhart. The Braves closed to within one run in the second inning. Kenny Lofton singled home Blauser. After Lofton stole second, Lockhart singled him home, making the score 4-3. However, Glavine couldn't quell the Marlins. Once again, White, Rentería, and Sheffield were on with no outs. Bonilla singled making it 5-3. After a Conine strikeout, Alou grounded into a force play, scoring Rentería. Johnson then walked intentionally before Counsell singled, making it 7–3, putting the game out of reach. Brown was asked to leave the game towards the ninth, but he told Jim Leyland he wanted to continue. The Braves were able to score one in the ninth, bringing Chipper Jones, who finished ninth in MVP voting, to the plate representing the tying run. However, he hit a grounder and the Marlins forced Keith Lockhart at second to give Brown a complete game victory and the first pennant for the Florida Marlins. It was the first pennant for a wild card team in Major League Baseball history.
|Total attendance: 309,352 Average attendance: 51,559|
- "1997 NLCS Game 1 - Florida Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1997 NLCS Game 2 - Florida Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1997 NLCS Game 3 - Atlanta Braves vs. Florida Marlins". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1997 NLCS Game 4 - Atlanta Braves vs. Florida Marlins". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1997 NLCS Game 5 - Atlanta Braves vs. Florida Marlins". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1997 NLCS Game 6 - Florida Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.