Braves Best Playoff Moments: The Slide

After leading the NLCS 3-1, the Pirates battled back to push a critical game seven. Pittsburgh would go up 2-0 until the final inning, where the Braves put on a rally for the ages.
The Atlanta Braves Sid Bream (R) slides across the
The Atlanta Braves Sid Bream (R) slides across the / ROBERT SULLIVAN/GettyImages

After a surprise World Series run in 1991, The Braves showed they were no fluke the following year. The state of Pennsylvania dominated the National League from the late sixties to the early nineties. In that span, the Phillies and Pirates won 15 of 25 NLCS, with Pittsburgh surging behind a young Barry Bonds.

The 1992 rematch saw the Braves go up in the series 3-1 behind solid pitching performances from John Smoltz and Steve Avery. Atlanta looked as if they were going to cruise to the World Series until Bonds and Andy Van Slyke battled the Pirates back to tie the series. Winning games five and six, the Buccos outscored the Braces 20-5 to bring it back to Atlanta for a winner-take-all match.

History was not on the Braves' side, as the last seven of ten teams to come back from 3-1 went on to complete the comeback. Game seven did not look any more promising. Pitching for his third start of the NLCS, Smoltz gave up a run to give the Pirates an early lead 1-0. Pittsburgh added to their lead in the sixth on a Van Slyke single to drive in Josh Bell. Drabek, on the other side, pitched his best game, going eight scoreless innings. The Braves were close to scoring in the sixth, hitting three consecutive singles. However, they would not score any runs, batting into an inning-ending double play.

The game remained 2-0 until the bottom of the ninth. With only three outs left, Pittsburgh sought to go to the World Series for the first time since 1979. The Pirates sent out Drabek to complete the game against the Braves middle order. Atlanta started with a double from Terry Pendleton. David Justice followed, hitting a hard grounder off Jose Lind, putting runners at the corners.

Drabek's final batter was a walk to Sid Bream, loading the bases and placing the tying run into scoring position. Closer Stan Belinda came to the mound giving up a sacrifice fly, bringing home Pendleton. Damon Berryhill kept the rally going, drawing another walk to re-load the bases. Getting deep in the Braves' lineup, Belinda popped out pinch hitter Brian Hunter for the second out. In an interesting move, manager Bobby Cox put in Francisco Cabrera, who had not played much throughout the season.

Cabrera quickly went up in the count 2-0 before lining a ball foul to left field. Famously, Van Slyke saw Bonds' position and told him to move up in case a similar hit happened. They thought they could easily get a very slow Bream ou due to his bad knee. Barry responded to Slyke by giving him the finger and staying put.

On the next pitch, Cabrera hit a line drive to left in front of Bonds, driving in David Justice to tie the game. However, third base coach Jimmy Williams saw it was a cross-body throw and would be difficult to apply the tag. Rounding third, Bream made an excellent slide home, beating the Bonds' throw by a hair and giving the Braves a 3-2 win. Skip Carray gave the iconic "HE IS SAFE" call and the Braves walked off the NLCS to face the Blue Jays.

The 1992 Cabrera hit was the only time in MLB history to hit for the tie and lead, while it could have been the team's final out. Furthermore, the win cemented that the Braves were the team of the 90s. Although Atlanta lost to the Jays in the World Series, they would win their first in the city against the Cleveland Indians in 1995. Following the 95 season, they would reach in 1996 and 1999 to play the Yankees twice.