The Schilling Fields

I am sure that Atlanta Braves fans everywhere were excited to return home to Turner Field with the National League Championship Series tied 1-1. I am sure that they were encouraged at the thoughts of an 8-1 whooping of the Diamondbacks. After all, the Diamondbacks have scored only 3 runs this entire series. Obviously, Arizona was going to be in a world of hurt now that they would be playing the next three games at the TED.

The problem with all of this jubilation was that these fans forgot just a few things. First, the Atlanta Braves are just not that good at home. Of all the teams remaining in the play-offs, the Braves are the only ones to have a losing record at home. Granted, it is not a really bad record, 40-41, but still. A team plays half their games in their home park. You would think they could manage to win at least half of them. It is a strange statistic. Ted Turner Field was built according to the strengths of this franchise. It is one of the premier pitcher’s parks in Major League Baseball and yet a team that was built around pitching and a perennial force in the National League East cannot muster a winning record there. This does not bode well for the home team.

The second problem with the next three games is the fans, or should I say lack of them. Being an Arizona Diamondbacks fan, I can tell you right now that we feel your pain. I sat there during game one looking around the stadium seeing 12,000 empty seats in Bank One Ballpark wondering how the Diamondbacks could not sell out. I understand that part of the problem was that game one was a day game and many people had to work and could not get to the game. I am not buying that excuse, but I recognize it might have some validity. I cannot understand though how the Braves could have 13,000 seats available before a Friday night NLCS game with their team tied and an opportunity to clinch yet another berth into the World Series with a sweep at home. Not that I am complaining though. Every empty seat at Turner Field means one less red foam tomahawk and one less Indian chant I will have to endure on television. Perhaps this is the people of Atlanta’s environmental stand. They refuse to support the thinning of the Ozone layer by reducing the amount of foam produced for tomahawks. In that case, I admire their misguided priorities.

Although these two problems may cause some Braves fans to lose a little sleep, there is one problem that won’t go away. This problem stands 6 foot 4 inches and weights 231 pounds. He has become a post season force to be reckoned with and the Braves found out just what the definition of a dominating pitching performance was. Curt Schilling is proving to everyone that he is worth every penny that that Arizona Diamondbacks are paying. He is displaying the pitching prowess that Diamondbacks front office anticipated when they traded for him in July 2000. As part of the Dynamic Duo with Randy Johnson, Schilling is making a strong statement of why he was the best pitcher in all of baseball this season. Starting with the inconceivable statistic of Schilling being 15-1 in games after the Diamondbacks have lost, the Braves were going to be in for a long evening indeed. It was clear from the game on Friday night that Schilling had no intention of letting this series get out of hand. Throwing his third complete game in the 2001 post season, Curt refused to allow the somewhat questionable Diamondbacks bullpen become a factor. Schilling was in a word “dominating” allowing just 4 hits during the game.

Now with the Diamondbacks having a 2-1 lead in the series, each game becomes critical for the Atlanta Braves. After all, they still need to face the Johnson and Schilling tag team one more time if they are going to reach the fall classic. With those odds, maybe those people staying away from Turner Field are doing so because of a weak stomach.

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