The Atlanta Braves started July 1995 on a tear, winning eight games in eight days. They started the streak 2½ games behind the Phillies. After their eighth consecutive win, they had moved into first place, 3½ games ahead of Philadelphia.
San Francisco arrived in Atlanta after splitting six games to start July. The Giants started the month just 1½ games behind the first place Colorado Rockies in the National League West Division. After losing the first two games of the series in Atlanta, the Giants had fallen to five games behind the Rockies. The Giants were hitting just .251, last in the National League.
Giants general manager Bob Quinn was trying to find a way to get the team back on track. He was preparing to attend the coming All-Star Game as part of his search for another pitcher to help a pitching staff that had been racked by injuries. “We’ve scored enough runs to win our share of games, but as is so often the case in baseball, our pitching hasn’t always caught up with our hitting,” Quinn said.1
Kent Mercker started the July 9 game for Atlanta. Mercker joined the Braves in 1990 and by 1995 he was the fifth pitcher in a rotation that included Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux. He entered the game with a 4-4 record. He had thrown well in his previous two starts but failed to pick up a win.
Mercker pitched solidly for the first four innings. He surrendered just one hit, a single to Mark Carreon in the second. The Giants reached base again in the fifth when Royce Clayton singled. Clayton put himself in scoring position when he stole second, but Mercker struck out Giants starting pitcher Terry Mulholland to end the threat.
Mulholland had won his first two starts in May but had struggled recently. He entered the game with a 2-7 record, having lost six times in his previous seven starts. His ERA over that time was 7.41.
Mulholland started shakily, giving up consecutive singles to Chipper Jones and Fred McGriff with two outs in the first. After walking David Justice to load the bases, Mulholland struck out Javy Lopez to end the inning.
After the first, Mulholland settled down and seemed to shake the mound struggles he had suffered over the past two months. He gave up just two more hits, groundball singles, over the next five innings while striking out six Braves. One of the hits was a second single by McGriff with two outs in the sixth. When Mulholland threw a wild pitch to Justice, the ball hit the backstop and bounced straight back to the catcher, who threw a dart to second to get McGriff and end the inning.
“That was probably the best that I’ve thrown in two years,” Mulholland said after the game. “My arm felt great, I had a good curve, fastball, slider, and I felt like I could pitch the ball where I wanted to. I actually had fun out there for six innings.2 Giants general manager Quinn was likely encouraged by his performance as well.
With the game scoreless, Mulholland was taken out for a pinch-hitter in the seventh when a walk and single put a Giant at third. Mercker gave up a single to Kirt Manwaring and walked Mike Benjamin. Giants manager Dusty Baker sent right-handed batter Rikkert Faneyte to hit for Mulholland against the lefty Mercker. Mercker struck him out on three pitches and then got Darren Lewis to fly out to center field to keep the game scoreless.
McMichael got the first two batters out. Glenallen Hill then singled through a hole in the left side of the infield. The next batter, Carreon, on a 3-and-1 count, hit a home run over the left-field wall to give the Giants a 2-0 lead.
Shawn Barton who had replaced Mulholland in the seventh, pitched two perfect innings. With two outs in the Giants’ ninth, Barton was removed for pinch-hitter John Patterson as the Giants tried to build on their lead. Patterson singled and went to third when Lewis singled. Lewis stole second, but Braves reliever Mark Wohlers struck out Robby Thompson to end the threat.
In the bottom of the inning, Rod Beck came in to close out the game for the Giants. Beck walked leadoff batter Jeff Blauser. Jones then ripped the ball to center for a single. It was hit so hard that it looked for a moment that Lewis might catch it. This brought up McGriff. Beck threw him two splitters in the dirt and McGriff swung at them, missing by a wide margin.
Beck threw the next pitch higher, figuring that McGriff would be looking for another low pitch. McGriff was not and he connected on the pitch, sending it over the wall in dead center for a walk-off home run. “The pitch worked; it went down. He was waiting on it; he knew it was coming,” said Beck afterward.3
The walk-off homer was McGriff’s first round-tripper since June 21. “I was trying to push the runners over. The way that Lewis was going back, I thought that he had plenty of room. [The home run] is something to build on for the second half of the season. I haven’t had a great start so far,” McGriff said.
McGriff also noted that it was only his 11th home run of the season. “It hasn’t been a great year for me homer-wise,” he said. “It’s one of those things. Beck’s a great pitcher. If this was a month ago, this was a fly ball. Right now everything we do is working.”4
It was the first blown save for Beck since May 23. “I figured that I’d throw one for a strike, he figured that I’d throw one for a strike and he hit it out of the ballpark. It didn’t work out very well,” Beck said.5
The win made it nine in a row for the Braves. “That team over there, they believe they can’t lose any more,” Giants first baseman Carreon said.6 The win put the Braves up by four games over the Phillies. “We’re up four and that’s pretty good for this club,” said Cox, understating his team’s accomplishment.7
Blauser, the Braves shortstop, was more emphatic: “You never feel like you are out of it. That is a pretty good feeling to have.”8
As the Braves celebrated their victory and prepared for a few days off for the All-Star break, Baker shared his disappointment with the loss. It was the Giants’ 13th loss in 19 games. “This was a big game because we could have started the second half one game under .500 instead of three,” Baker commented. “It hurts you when you lose three games in three days. This is something that we’ll have to use as a source of hunger when we get back home.”9
The Braves lost when play resumed after the All-Star break, falling to the Pirates 2-1 in a makeup game in Pittsburgh. But they quickly put that loss behind them and won the first three games of a series against the Padres. The Braves finished July with a 20-7 record and an eight-game division lead over the Phillies.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org for box-score, player, team, and season information as well as pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.
1 Henry Schulman, “Giants Gone Fishing for Pitching,” San Francisco Examiner, July 10, 1995: 41.
3 I.J. Rosenberg, “McGriff HR in 9th Saves Braves,” Atlanta Constitution, July 10, 1995: 17.
4 Henry Schulman, “Giants Beat,” San Francisco Examiner, July 10, 1995: 45. McGriff finished the season with 27 home runs.
9 Schulman, “Giants Gone Fishing.”