With the 2015 World Series starting this week, we figured it would be fun (maybe a little depressing as well?) to take a look back at the Braves 4-2 World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians back in 1995. A 20-year-anniversary of sorts.
Back in '95, the Indians boasted the best offense in the Major Leagues. The team ended the regular season with a .291/.361/.479 triple-slash — the best mark in the league in each of those categories. Unsurprisingly, the team led the league with 207 home runs and 840 runs.
This was a team touting the likes of Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Eddie Murray, Omar Vizquel and Albert Belle. Belle was coming off a 50-homer season — the most in the league — while Thome, Lofton, Ramirez Murray, Belle and Carlos Baerga were all hitting well over .300.
The Braves of course entered this series with the best pitching in baseball. With a starting rotation of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and Kent Mercker this shouldn't come as a big surprise.
Maddux had just completed arguably the best season of his entire career, where he unanimously won the NL Cy Young award and led the league in a plethora of various categories including: wins (19), win-loss percentage (.905), ERA (1.63), complete games (10), shutouts (3), innings pitched (209.2), FIP (2.26), WHIP (.811), HR/9 (0.3) and BB/9 (1.00).
Naturally, Maddux was on the mound for the first game of the series, going up against Cleveland's Orel Hershiser, who posted a 3.87 ERA during the regular season.
The Braves were hurt by shortstop defense during the first inning, when Rafael Belliard's error allowed leadoff man Kenny Lofton to reach first. After stealing second and third, Lofton managed to score on Carlos Baerga's groundout to short.
Atlanta bounced back in the bottom of the second inning though, with Fred McGriff leading off with a homer to right-center field. McGriff led the Braves with 27 home runs during the 1995 season, and didn't stop hitting the long balls when it mattered most.
Through the third and fourth innings Maddux and Hershiser settled into a bit of a pitcher's duel, as both players tossed back-to-back three-up, three-down innings. While that ended during the fifth inning, the two arms still made it through the sixth inning without allowing a run to score.
After Hershiser walked McGriff and David Justice to start the bottom of the seventh inning, though, Indians manager Mike Hargrove pulled his starter in favor of Paul Assenmacher. This didn't work out well though, as Assenmacher proceeded to walk the bases loaded. Out goes Assenmacher and in comes Julian Tavarez.
The Braves then managed to drive in two runs with some small ball; specifically, a fielder's choice from pinch-hitter Luis Polonia and a sacrifice bunt from Belliard. I guess that made up for his error during the first inning.
After the seventh it was all Atlanta, and while the Indians did get one run back during the top of the ninth thanks to an Omar Vizquel groundout to score Lofton, Maddux shut the door on yet another complete game by getting Baerga to fly out to Chipper Jones in foul territory.
3-2 Atlanta to take the first game of the series in Fulton County Stadium, in front of a crowd of 51,876. The Braves only needed three hits to get the victory, but with Maddux on the mound that was probably the case more often than not.
We'll be back tomorrow to go over Game Two. Feel free to share any memories you might have of this game. I would, but I was just a one-year-old at the time so... that wouldn't really work.