Only the young Atlanta Braves sprayed champagne in the clubhouse. When the bubbly hit the veterans, they wiped it off.
The Braves, still trying to become baseball's best, made it to the NL championship series for the fourth straight time Saturday night by beating the Colorado Rockies 10-4 to win the best-of-5 series 3-1.Still elusive is a World Series title. The Braves lost the World Series in 1991 and 1992 and fell to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993 in their bid to make it three NL titles in a row.
"We still got a little more work to do," said Fred McGriff, who drove in five runs with two homers and a single.
McGriff, battling a 3-for-14 slump, put the Braves ahead 4-3 with a two-run homer in the third, then added a solo homer in the fifth and a two-run single in the sixth.
"I think it's important that we have a little bit of fun now," said Tom Glavine, who starts against Pete Schourek in Tuesday night's opener against the Reds. "But our goal is to win the World Series. This is just one step along the way."
McGriff's offensive outburst that helped the Braves overcome another shaky playoff performance by Greg Maddux.
"I hadn't helped much," McGriff said. "I wanted to contribute. We didn't want to play Colorado Sunday. They're battlers. Anything could happen in one game."
Maddux, whose regular-season record in three years with Atlanta is 55-18, hasn't been nearly as good in the postseason. He got the victory Saturday night despite giving up 10 hits and two homers in seven innings, improving his playoff record to 2-2 with a 6.62 ERA in six starts.
"I felt good," Maddux said. "You've got to give the Rockies a lot of credit. Those guys swung early in the count and they know I like to get ahead. They didn't let me get ahead tonight."
The Rockies, who made the playoffs in just their third year of existence, again couldn't overcome their shaky pitching.
Dante Bichette's three-run homer in the third inning gave Bret Saberhagen a 3-0 lead to work with, but the two-time Cy Young Award winner couldn't hold it for even a half-inning.
Marquis Grissom, who had five hits, and Mark Lemke singled in the bottom of the third and Chipper Jones drove them in with a double past left fielder Bichette, who tried to make a diving catch. McGriff then hit a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence.
The Braves stretched their lead to 6-3 in the fourth. Ryan Klesko singled, Charlie O'Brien walked and Rafael Belliard was safe on a fielder's choice when second baseman Eric Young fielded his grounder and outran O'Brien to the bag. Young tried to turn a double play but threw wide of first, allowing Klesko to score and Belliard to reach second. Belliard later scored on Grissom's double.
"If a couple of breaks go our way, then it turns around," Bichette said. "I guess history is filled with a couple of breaks the other way."
Saberhagen, bothered by a sore right shoulder, gave up six runs and seven hits in four innings.
"If I am out there healthy, I think we probably win that game tonight," Saberhagen said. "To have me come in and let them down is tough to swallow."
McGriff's fifth-inning homer made it 7-3 and Maddux, 19-2 in the regular season with a 1.63 ERA, gave up a solo homer in the sixth to Vinny Castilla, his third of the series.
Maddux struck out seven and walked none before leaving for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
The Braves added three runs in the sixth with another two-out rally. Maddux singled, Grissom followed with his fourth hit of the game and Lemke hit an RBI double down the right-field line. After Jones was walked intentionally to load the bases, McGriff greeted reliever Mike Munoz with a two-run single to right.
Bichette, among the favorites to win the NL MVP award, considered the four-game series a learning experience.
"Now I know why everybody talks about why is is so fun to get to the postseason. These were the four most fun games I have ever played in my life. It was absolutely a blast."