Thursday, August 26, 1999

Given an inch, Braves take mile

Andruw's HR sinks Reds

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ATLANTA — It was a play that came down to an inch or two. The result, however, moved the Reds another mile or two back in the playoff race.

        The play came in the first inning of the Reds' 5-2 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday: Braves at first and third, two outs, Andruw Jones at the plate, 2-2 count. Reds starter Denny Neagle threw a pitch inside.

        Jones hit the ball high and deep to left.

        “I thought it was a pop-up,” left fielder Greg Vaughn said.

        Vaughn backed to the warning track and stopped. Then Vaughn backed up some more, all the way to the wall.

        It looked like he was going to make the play.

        “I thought I was,” Vaughn said. “I don't know what happened.”

        But the ball hit the top of the wall, about two or three inches above the glove of the leaping Vaughn.

        Three-run homer. The Reds trailed 3-1.

        If Jones had gotten just a bit less of the ball or if Vaughn had made the catch, the Reds would have been out of the inning with a 1-0 lead.

        “It definitely changed the game,” Reds manager Jack McKeon said.

        Neagle walked the next batter but then retired 14 of the next 15. So if Jones' ball had been caught in the first, the Braves' two-run rally in the sixth only would have tied the game.

        Instead, with the way the Reds swing the bats in Atlanta, the homer put the game out of reach.

        But it was that type of series for the Reds. The Braves swept the Reds for the second straight series in Atlanta. The Braves didn't overwhelm the Reds in any of the three games, but they were better at the decisive moments.

        “Every time we made a mistake, they jumped on it,” McKeon said. “We haven't been able to make the key pitches when we had to.”

        Neagle thought he did to Jones.

        “I thought there was no way it was out,” Neagle said. “... I didn't think that ball was gone, but it kept carrying and carrying.”


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