The Atlanta Braves finally shucked their loser's image, shutting out Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the NL playoffs and setting up the most unlikely World Series ever.
The Braves made winning look easy last night as John Smoltz pitched Atlanta past the Pirates 4-0 for its first pennant.
Now, a season full of surprises ends with the biggest one yet. The Braves, baseball's poorest team last year, and the Minnesota Twins, the only other team this century to go from worst to first, meet in the World Series starting tomorrow night in the Metrodome.
Brian Hunter's two-run homer capped a three-run first inning, and that was all Smoltz and the Braves needed. The Pirates' big hitters again went poof, and Pittsburgh was shut out for the second straight game.
A day after NL playoffs MVP Steve Avery and Alejandro Pena shut down Pittsburgh 1-0, Smoltz won his second game of the series with a six-hitter. In reversing their history, the Braves also stopped the Pirates' series of Game 7 successes: Pitts-burgh had played five previous deciding seventh games, and won them all.
This time, it was over early. After the Braves knocked out 20-game winner John Smiley in the first inning, the Pirates had their best chance when Orlando Merced and Jay Bell led off the first with singles.
But the big three of Andy Van Slyke, Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds each made outs, failing for the umpteenth time. They were a combined 0-for-33 with runners on base until Bonilla singled in the eighth.
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