Braves vs. Dodgers: The rivalry that was (’91)
On June 28 the Braves beat the Dodgers in 10 before 43,000-plus at Fulco, to close within 5.5 games of division-leading L.A. In those days, that was reason for hope. Then the Dodgers won the nightcap and the remaining two games of the series, The two teams met again a week later in L.A., where they split the first two. A loss in the finale would drop the Braves 9.5 games behind the Dodgers in the West.
The Braves trailed throughout and entered the 8th down 5-2. But then TP singled to lead things off, Gant got hit by a pitch and Tommy Gregg reached on an error, loading the bases. The rally was cut short when Jeff Treadway hit into a double play and Blauser struck out. The Braves lost to drop one game under .500 heading into the All-Star break — familiar territory for long-suffering fans.
In the two months since they last played, the Braves had made up 10 games on the Dodgers and entered the weekend series up by 1/2-a-game. Nearly 140,000 showed up at Fulco for the three-game series, with the Dodgers winning the opener and the Braves prevailing in 11 innings in Game 2. The winner of the finale would leave Atlanta with the division lead, and the Dodgers had their ace, Ramon Martinez, on the mound. But the Braves had Avery, who got all the runs he needed in the bottom of the 1st, when a Sid Bream grand slam gave the Braves a 5-0 lead. Avery went the distance, allowing one run, four hits, walking none and striking out 6. It wouldn’t be his last big start against the Dodgers that summer.
It would come less than a week later. The Dodgers had retaken the lead heading into the weekend series at Chavez Ravine. Avery and Tim Belcher matched zeroes through 6, when Gant — stuck on 29 for weeks — scored Justice on a two-run bomb to left. It was all Avery would need. I remember Sutton marveling at the youngster’s composure, and it appeared at that point he was the best of the Braves’ young arms. Tommy G. deserved the Cy Young Award that year, but Avery was the guy you wanted on the mound in a big game.
The Dodgers would win the last two games of those series but would end up losing the division by one game. Avery’s starts made the difference. .