The silver anniversary of #Braves nirvana: Smoltzie’s redemption

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Check out the rest of our series remembering the ’91 Braves.

After Avery’s masterpiece in Game 6, his second of the series, all of the momentum shifted to the Braves. Pirates fans must’ve sensed it, failing to fill Three Rivers Stadium. For a Game 7. Even Braves fans never did that.

The Braves had Smoltzie, who turned his season around after a miserable first half. The Pirates who countered with John Smiley, who didn’t make it out of the third inning in Atlanta’s 10-3 Game 3 victory. He wouldn’t make it out of the first in Game 7. He issued a lead-off walk to Lonnie Smith, followed by a Terry Pendleton single, advancing Lonnie to third. A deep fly by Ron Gant scored the first run, but Smiley recovered by striking out Justice. Up stepped Brian Hunter, who had a .455 slugging percentage vs. lefties that year. On the second pitch of his at bat, Hunter launched a towering fly ball along the left field line that cleared the wall to give the Braves a 3-0 lead. Smiley’s night was over and so, it appeared, was Pittsburgh’s season.

But the Pirates responded in the bottom half of the inning with singles by Orlando Merced and Jay Bell. Due up: Andy Van Slyke, Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds. On the fourth pitch of the bat, Van Slyke nailed one to deep right that would’ve tied it. It wasn’t deep enough, falling into the waiting glove of David Justice. Merced advanced to third. The Pirates still had a good chance to put a dent in the Braves lead, but Bonilla popped up to second and Bonds grounded out to second to end the inning. The Bucs would bring up the tying run just once — in the 4th, when Jose Lind stepped to the plate with two on and two out. Like Bonds, Lind hit a dribbler to second to end the threat.

That’s how the game would end, on a grounder to second by Lind off Smoltz.

It wouldn’t be his last Game 7 in 1991.

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