Diamondbacks 5, Braves 1

Saturday, October 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Curt Schilling blew away the Atlanta Braves with his pitching, then bowled them over with his baserunning for good measure.

Schilling put another glittering start on his growing postseason resume, and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Braves 5-1 Friday night for a 2-1 lead in the NL championship series.

Coming off two complete-game wins over St. Louis in the first round, Schilling mixed a 98 mph fastball and a sharp splitter in pitching a four-hitter and striking out 12.

Schilling also added a bit of rough 'n tumble on the bases, knocking down catcher Javy Lopez on a play at the plate during a three-run fifth inning.

Atlanta totally fell apart in the field during that game-breaking burst, forgetting to cover bases and failing to catch the ball.

At least the Braves did not hear a lot of boos from their fans, and there was a good reason. The crowd of 41,624 at Turner Field was about 9,000 short of a sellout, leaving the ballpark atmosphere not nearly as juiced as it has been for the ALCS between Seattle and the Yankees.

``The fact that they've drawn so well during the regular season is what makes this so difficult for me to understand,'' said commissioner Bud Selig, who was in attendance.

Steve Finley drove in three runs and Craig Counsell, reprising his role as a playoff star, had three hits and a key sacrifice bunt against losing pitcher John Burkett.

Greg Maddux, winless in his last nine starts, will try to get Atlanta even when he pitches on three days' rest Saturday night in Game 4 against Albie Lopez.

Another loss would put the Braves in an extremely precarious position. Randy Johnson, who seems to have found his postseason rhythm, is scheduled to start Game 5 for Arizona.

With Schilling in command, Johnson and the other Diamondbacks pitchers had little to do on this night. The Big Unit applauded in the dugout when Schilling fanned pinch-hitter Dave Martinez to strand a pair of runners and preserve a 5-1 lead in the seventh.

Schilling is 3-0 this postseason with an 0.67 ERA after leading the majors 22 wins. He's 4-1 lifetime in the postseason and was the MVP of the 1993 NLCS with Philadelphia.

He did not allow a hit until Marcus Giles led off the fourth with a double. One out later, Chipper Jones grounded an RBI single under the glove of diving shortstop Tony Womack.

Schilling turned around to watch the ball skip into center field and, without a grimace, went right back to work and got Brian Jordan to ground into a double play.

The Diamondbacks took a 2-0 lead in the third on an infield single by Counsell, a two-out walk to Matt Williams on a close full-count pitch and Finley's double.

Arizona took command in the fifth, getting a lot of help from the Braves.

Schilling, a .133 hitter this year, led off with a single that Jordan charged in right field. Jordan had thoughts about throwing out Schilling, but first baseman Julio Franco never made a move to cover the bag.

Womack followed with a bunt right back to Burkett, but neither Franco nor second baseman Giles covered first. Womack was credited with a single, and Counsell bunted the runners into scoring position.

After an intentional walk to Luis Gonzalez, Steve Reed relieved and did his job, getting Williams to hit a grounder to Jones at third base on the first pitch.

Jones fielded the chopper and threw home, and the ball easily beat Schilling _ but Lopez let it skim off his glove.

The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Schilling push Lopez in the chest and knocked him down for emphasis, and when no one immediately retrieved the ball, Womack scooted home from second base.

Finley capped the inning with a single off reliever Mike Remlinger.

Notes: Franco faced Schilling for the first time in more than 10 years. ... Kevin Millwood, left out of Atlanta's rotation so far in the postseason, relieved in the eighth. ... There were about 12,000 tickets left for Game 4 and about 14,000 for Game 5 in Atlanta. ... Only three of the 11 NL playoffs games this year have been sellouts.