The 1998 Atlanta Braves dug themselves into a massive 3-0 hole in the NLCS against the San Diego Padres. They went into Game 4 trying to avoid a sweep. The Braves’ biggest issue through the early part of the series was a lack of offense. Atlanta scored a total of three runs over the first three games of the series.
Atlanta would turn to Denny Neagle in Game 4. Neagle was coming off of a solid regular season in which he posted a 3.55 ERA (4.06 FIP) in 210 1/3 innings. He was also second on the team in complete games with five trailing only Greg Maddux who led the team with nine. Neagle would have been one of the better starters on most teams in 1998, but he was only the Braves’ fifth-best starter over the course of the season. The Padres would counter with right-hander Joey Hamilton, who made 34 starts during the regular season posting a 4.27 ERA (4.26 FIP) while logging 217 1/3 innings.
1998 NLCS Lineups Game 4
|1||Ozzie Guillen SS||1||Quilvio Veras 2B|
|2||Keith Lockhart 2B||2||Steve Finley CF|
|3||Chipper Jones 3B||3||Tony Gwynn RF|
|4||Andres Galarraga 1B||4||Ken Caminiti 3B|
|5||Ryan Klesko LF||5||Jim Leyritz 1B|
|6||Javy Lopez C||6||Carlos Hernandez C|
|7||Andruw Jones CF||7||Ruben Rivera LF|
|8||Michael Tucker RF||8||Chris Gomez SS|
|9||Denny Neagle P||9||Joey Hamilton P|
With a right-hander on the mound, Bobby Cox went back to his normal lineup. The only change came at the top of the order, with Ozzie Guillen taking over at shortstop for Walt Weiss. Bruce Bochy made a couple of lineup changes, inserting Jim Leyritz at first base and Ruben Rivera in left to get a couple of more right-handed bats into the lineup against Neagle.
1st Inning - Braves 0, Padres 0
Facing elimination with their backs against the wall, the Braves got to work against Padres right-hander Joey Hamilton. Guillen led off the game working an eight-pitch at-bat but lined out to Gomez at short for the first out. Lockhart flew out to left and Chipper grounded out to end the inning.
Neagle answered back with a scoreless frame of his own. Quilvio Veras fouled out down the right field line for the first out. Steve Finley then picked up an infield hit but Gwynn struck out and Caminiti grounded out to end the inning.
2nd Inning - Braves 0, Padres 0
The Braves would get the leadoff man on in the second as Andres Galarraga worked a four-pitch walk to open the inning. He moved up to second as Ryan Klesko bounced back to the mound but Hamilton struck out Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones to close out the inning.
Neagle struck out Jim Leyritz to open the home half of the second. Carlos Henandez followed with a single to left but Neagle came right back and struck out Rivera and Gomez to end the second.
3rd Inning - Padres 2, Braves 0
Hamilton worked his way through an easy third with just 11 pitches, striking out Michael Tucker for the first out. Neagle then lined out to left and Guillen lifted a fly ball to center for the final out.
Neagle ran into trouble in the third. Hamilton struck out to open the frame but a walk to Veras would come back to haunt Neagle. Finley flew out to left for the second out but Gwynn followed with a double to right-center that scored Veras to put the Padres in front 1-0. Gwynn moved up to third on an infield single by Caminiti and came home to score on a single by Leyritz to increase the lead to 2-0. Neagle came back and struck out Hernandez to end the threat.
4th Inning - Padres 2, Braves 1
Down 2-0, the Braves once again had their backs against the wall. Lockhart would get them going, though, as he lined the first pitch of the fourth inning into right for a triple. Chipper would bring him home with a single to left to cut the deficit to 2-1. Any thoughts of a big inning were quickly erased as Hamilton got Galarraga to ground into a 6-4-3 double play on the very next pitch. Klesko then grounded out for the final out, but Atlanta was able to put a run on the board.
Neagle settled back down in the fourth, retiring the Padres in order on 10 pitches. Rivera grounded back to the mound while Gomez and Hamilton both flew out.
5th Inning - Padres 2, Braves 1
The Braves were unable to tie the game in the fifth. Lopez struck out swinging for the first out and Andruw flew out for the second. Tucker then came up with a single but Neagle flew out to close the frame.
Neagle likewise had a stress-free fifth inning. He struck out Veras looking for the first out and then got Finley and Gwynn to ground out for another quick 10-pitch inning.
6th Inning - Padres 3, Braves 2
Atlanta finally broke through and tied the game briefly in the sixth. Hamilton retired Guillen on a fly out and then struck out Lockhart. He would then run into trouble with two outs as Chipper doubled to right. After a walk to Galarraga, Klesko singled to left, scoring Chipper to tie the game. Galarraga was thrown out trying to take third after Chipper scored for the final out.
San Diego didn’t need much time to retake the lead. Caminiti flew out for the first out of the inning but Leyritz followed with an opposite field home run on a 1-2 pitch to put the Padres back in front. Neagle then got Hernandez to pop out for the second out but allowed a double down the left field line to Rivera. That would end his night as Cox would summon right-hander Dennis Martinez from the bullpen. Martinez would avoid further damage as Gomez grounded out to end the inning.
7th Inning - Braves 8, Padres 3
Atlanta’s offense would finally break out for the first time in the series in the seventh. Wally Joyner replaced Leyritz at first base for the Padres. Lopez stepped to the plate and quickly tied things back up with an opposite field home run of his own to even the score at 3-3. Andruw followed with a single to right and that would be the end of the night for Hamilton. Bruce Bochy would call on Randy Myers with one on and none out. Cox would counter by sending Gerald Williams out to hit for Michael Tucker. Williams would work the count full but would fly out harmlessly for the first out. Cox would again go to his bench with Greg Colbrunn pinch hitting for Martinez. Myers jumped ahead 0-2 but then uncorked a wild pitch that moved Andruw up to second. Colbrunn then grounded out to Caminiti at third for the second out.
Things would get interesting from there though. Guillen followed by dumping a single down the left field line that scored Andruw to put the Braves in front 4-3. Lockhart singled to right with Guillen going to third. Chipper then worked a walk to load the bases and that would be the end of the night for Myers. Bochy would turn to Dan Miceli to face Galarraga who was 0-for-1 with a couple of walks to this point. Galarraga took the first pitch for a ball and then jumped all over a pitch in the middle of the plate and drove it out to left center for a grand slam.
That was just Galarraga’s second hit of the series but it was a big one that gave the Braves some much-needed breathing room. Miceli came back and struck out Klesko looking for the final out but Atlanta finally had a real cushion with an 8-3 lead.
John Rocker took over on the mound in the bottom half of the inning for the Braves and mowed through the Padres, striking out Andy Sheets and Veras for the first two outs. Finley grounded out to Chipper at third for the final out.
8th Inning - Braves 8, Padres 3
The Braves had an opportunity to put some more runs on the board in the eighth but once again couldn’t cash them in. Brian Boehringer made his first appearance of the series and got Lopez to ground out for the first out of the inning. Andruw and Williams both followed with back-to-back singles. Danny Bautista then came on to pinch hit and grounded to third. Caminiti fired to second to force Williams and Veras then fired home to nab Jones at the plate as he tried to score for the final out.
Rocker would remain in the game to start the eighth for Atlanta and struck out Gwynn in a good battle for the first out. Cox would then bring on another lefty, Odalis Perez, to face Caminiti. Perez battled Caminiti for eight pitches but then lost him on a walk. Joyner followed with a single to put runners at first and second and that would be all for Perez. Cox would go back to Rudy Seanez, who got Hernandez to ground into a double play to end the threat.
9th Inning - Braves 8, Padres 3
Veteran left-hander Mark Langston cruised through the ninth inning, retiring Guillen on a ground out, Lockhart on a fly out and Chipper on a ground out.
Cox would bring on Kerry Ligtenberg to close it out in the ninth. Bochy sent out Mark Sweeney to pinch hit for Rivera and he grounded the first pitch he saw to second for the first out. Greg Myers would then pinch hit for Langston and work a walk with an eight-pitch at-bat. John Vander Wal would come on to hit for Andy Sheets, who had been double-switched into the game ahead of Galarraga’s grand slam. Ligtenberg was called for a balk on the 1-1 pitch which moved Myers up to second, but it didn’t matter as he struck out Vander Wal and Veras looking to end the game and give the Braves their first win of the series.
Atlanta finally notched a win in a do-or-die situation. Galarraga, who to that point hadn’t had a good series, came through with the big hit. Neagle scattered seven hits and allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked just one. The bullpen held up despite Perez allowing both hitters he faced to reach before being replaced.
Hamilton was tagged for seven hits and four runs in his six innings of work. Myers was responsible for three of the four runs scored on Galarraga’s slam.