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Jays in control; Pirates alive

Published Oct. 12, 2005

No debate about it. There was something different about the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday night.

They got the first run. Barry Bonds got a (big) hit. They made Steve Avery look mortal. They piled up runs like they were endorsements.

And that was just the first inning.

The Pirates blasted the Braves 7-1 Sunday, cutting Atlanta's lead in the best-of-seven National League playoffs to 3-2 and extending the series to at least a sixth game Tuesday night in Atlanta.

There was more good news for the crowd of 52,929 on a cold and crisp Sunday night:

Having fallen behind in each of the first four games, the Pirates doubled their way to a 4-0 lead in the first inning.

After struggling to a .205 batting average in the first four games, the Pirates unloaded on five Braves pitchers for 13 hits.

Bonds, slumping and frustrated in the post-season, broke out with two hits, an RBI and two runs scored.

And veteran pitcher Bob Walk, plucked from the bullpen to make the start in what seemed to be an act of desperation, pitched a complete game and held the Braves to just three hits.

The Braves, who appeared headed straight to their second consecutive NL pennant after Saturday's win, have to be concerned with their Sunday showing. It wasn't as if they all spent the afternoon playing football like outfielder Deion Sanders did.

The pitching was terrible (13 hits, seven runs), the offense invisible (three hits) and the defense inconsistent (several dropped and bobbled balls).

Maybe the change of scenery will help. After today's travel day, the series resumes Tuesday night in Atlanta. Pittsburgh rookie knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who baffled the Braves in Game 3, will start against Atlanta left-hander Tom Glavine.

The Pirates broke on top Sunday for the first time in the series, and they did it in a big way _ four runs and five hits, four of them doubles.

And all against Avery, the Braves' 22-year-old left-hander who shut them down in Game 2 and set a playoff record with 22 scoreless innings along the way.

Avery exited after facing six batters, retiring just one. His one-third of an inning stint was the shortest by an NL playoff starter since Pittsburgh's Bob Moose walked off the same Three Rivers Stadium mound after facing five Cincinnati batters in Game 2 of the 1972 series.

Gary Redus led off with a slicing liner over first base that he stretched into a double. Jay Bell worked the count full and scored Redus with a hard single to center. Andy Van Slyke moved Bell to second with an infield groundout.

Bonds, his post-season struggles eclipsing his magnificent talent, then stroked an RBI double to right-center for his first hit in 29 post-season at-bats with a runner in scoring position.

Jeff King followed with a fly ball to the left-centerfield wall that Otis Nixon misplayed into a double and allowed Bonds to score. Then Lloyd McClendon doubled into the leftfield corner to score King and chase Avery, who was replaced by Pete Smith.

Bonds came into the game 1-for-11 in the series and 8-for-54 with one RBI in 17 postseason games and hearing the boos of hometown fans he may soon desert via free-agency. He had a long talk with Pirates manager Jim Leyland after Saturday's game, and it seemed to pay off Sunday in what could have been Bonds' final home game in Pittsburgh.

He rapped the RBI double and scored in the first; singled, stole a base and scored in the third; and made an exciting running catch in left-centerfield of Ron Gant's fourth-inning liner.

The Pirates extended the lead to 5-0 in the third. Bonds led off with a single, stole second, went to third on an infield bouncer and scored on McClendon's sacrifice fly.

They added another run in the sixth when Gary Redus stroked an RBI single off Charlie Leibrandt, the third Atlanta pitcher.

Walk, 35, had a frustrating season for the Pirates, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen and spending two stints on the disabled list. He finished with a 10-6 record and 3.20 ERA.

Given his career record of 5-9 and 4.95 ERA against the Braves and his shaky performance in Game 2 _ 2 innings, two walks, three hits, including Ron Gant's grand slam _ he seemed an unlikely choice for the starting assignment. But manager Jim Leyland was disappointed with Danny Jackson's Game 2 performance and couldn't bring Wakefield back on one day's rest.

The Braves finally broke through with a run in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Lonnie Smith led off with a triple and came home on Jeff Blauser's infield groundout.

Colorado's new stadium designed for families

DENVER _ Coors Field is designed to offer major-league appeal before, during and after Colorado Rockies baseball games.

The downtown stadium will feature "family restrooms" to let parents help their young children in private stalls.

And diaper-changing tables in all restrooms will keep babies' bottoms softer, stadium architects said this week after unveiling their latest drawings to the metro stadium authority.

Groundbreaking will be Oct. 16. The stadium is scheduled to open for the 1995 baseball season.

Restroom relief is on tap for women, too. The infamous and infuriating delays women experience at ill-equipped Mile High Stadium shouldn't be duplicated at Coors: Women's bathrooms will have more toilets than the restrooms designed for men.

Plans for the stadium calls for 52 luxury spectator suites and approximately 5,000 other premium seats.

Crowds should be well-dispersed, with a choice of entrances around the park.

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.