When the 2000 National League Division Series began, the Atlanta Braves were the defending NL pennant winners and back again as a division champ. The San Francisco Giants were the team who had the National League’s best record in 2000. But neither team would make it out of this best-of-five round. It was the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals who advanced.
The links below show the paths all four teams took to reach the postseason and discusses their key players. This article will focus squarely on the games of the 2000 NLDS, that paired up Braves-Cardinals and Mets-Giants.
Tuesday, October 3
The Cardinals and Braves had each won 95 games, so a narrow head-to-head edge in favor of St. Louis had this series starting with an afternoon game in Busch Stadium. The Cards gave the ball to Rick Ankiel, while the Braves opened with the great Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux.
St. Louis catcher Carlos Hernandez made the game’s first big play, throwing out Rafael Furcal on a stolen base attempt. The play meant a single and two walks went to waste. And when the Cardinals came to the plate, they wasted no time in getting after Maddux.
The first four batters—Fernando Vina, J.D. Drew, Jim Edmonds, and Will Clark—all singled. St. Louis had a 2-0 lead, runners on the corners and no outs. An error by Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones added another run.
After a sacrifice bunt and intentional walk loaded the bases with one out, Placido Polanco knocked a single to center. Two runs scored as a matter of course and a throwing error served to clear the bases and put Polanco on third. With the pitcher’s spot up, Ankiel popped out and Polanco didn’t score, but the massive damage was already done. The Cardinals had a 6-0 lead.
In the top of the third, Ankiel got wild. Extremely wild. He walked Maddux to lead off the inning, then uncorked two wild pitches. Another walk and wild pitch had runners on second and third. After striking out Chipper Jones, Ankiel combined the two elements of wildness by walking Andres Galarraga and doing so on a wild pitch that brought Maddux in. Brian Jordan singled. It was 6-2 and there were still runners on first and second.
Ankiel threw another wild pitch. He got the second out, and with runners on second and third was on the verge of escaping this nightmare inning. But Walt Weiss knocked a big two-out, two-run single. The lead was cut to 6-4 and Ankiel was gone. Mike James came on and finally ended the inning that saw St. Louis give up four runs on just two hits—both singles.
St. Louis threatened, but didn’t score in the third, as Maddux again used the pitcher’s spot to escape trouble. But in the bottom of the fourth, Edgar Renteria homered to make it 7-4. Maddux was finally gone. Mike Remlinger came out of the bullpen in the fifth. The Cardinals threatened again, with runners on the corners and one out, but a big strikeout of J.D. Drew was the key to escaping the inning.
St. Louis had the lead, but had also left a lot of meat on the bone in the first six innings. Would that come back to haunt them? In the top of the seventh, Andruw Jones worked a walk and Chipper Jones singled. Britt Reames came out of the Cardinal bullpen. After striking out Galarraga, Reames walked Jordan to load up the bases. But now it was Atlanta’s opportunity to miss an opportunity. A Reggie Sanders fly ball to left was too short to score a run, and Reames escaped.
The Cards missed another chance in the bottom of the eighth, when Clark couldn’t pick up a runner on third with one out, so the Braves were still in striking distance. And a Renteria error and hit batsman opened the top of the ninth. There was one out, Dave Veres was on for St. Louis, and Atlanta could bring the tying run to the plate.
Jordan singled to left. It was 7-5. But Veres struck out Sanders. Keith Lockhart hit a line drive, but it ended up as an out. Game 1 was not a video that one that anyone would send to the Instructional League. But no one in St. Louis cared. They had the win.
Wednesday, October 4
St. Louis and Atlanta got an odd day off, so the Giants-Mets game was the only action in the National League, coming on for a late-night broadcast on the East Coast after both ALDS games had wrapped up. This one had a good pitching matchup. The Giants went with Livan Hernandez, a World Series hero for the Marlins in 1997. The Mets went to their ace, Mike Hampton.
In the bottom of the first, San Francisco got a one-out double from Bill Mueller, who took third on a Barry Bonds base hit to center. A groundball out from Jeff Kent scored the run and the Giants had the early lead.
New York responded in the top of the third, when Mike Bordick hit a one-out single. Hampton helped his own cause with a base hit. After a walk to Benny Agbyani, Jay Payton delivered the tying run with a sac fly.
But with two outs in the bottom of that same inning, San Francisco struck big. Again, it started with a base hit by Mueller. Bonds’ RBI triple put the Giants back in the lead. Kent worked a walk. And Ellis Burks unloaded with a three-run blast that made it 5-1.
In the meantime, Hernandez was in control. Even though San Francisco missed out on a bases-loaded/one-out opportunity in the sixth, the Mets couldn’t threaten again until the eighth. They loaded up the bases with two outs. Hernandez departed and Felix Rodriguez came in. The Giant reliever struck out Daryl Hamilton to end that threat. Closer Robb Nen closed the game out in the ninth. San Francisco had Game 1.
Thursday, October 5
Both series were in action on Thursday, and Busch Stadium had another afternoon start. Darryl Kile was going for the Cardinals. The Braves had another Hall of Fame ace to turn to, in lefty Tom Glavine.
Glavine was staked to a quick lead. Furcal led the game off with a walk, moved up on a groundball out and scored on a single from Chipper Jones. A Galarraga double set up an RBI groundout from Jordan and Atlanta was up 2-0.
But for the second straight game, the St. Louis bats attacked a great Atlanta starter. Vina led off with a single. Edmonds drew a one-out walk. Will Clark homered. One inning later, Hernandez went deep. It was 4-2 Cardinals.
And they kept coming in the third. Renteria opened with a single, followed by an Edmonds double. When Clark was hit by a pitch, the bases were loaded with none out. Eric Davis’ sac fly picked up one run, Ray Lankford’s double added another two, and Glavine was headed for the showers, his team in a deep 7-2 hole.
St. Louis kept adding on in the fourth, when Renteria walked, stole second and scored on another Edmonds double. In the sixth, Edmonds delivered yet another RBI double. Later in the game, Mark McGwire homered. Kile worked seven strong innings, and was not challenged after the rocky first inning. A couple late Atlanta runs were meaningless in a 10-4 final.
An 8 PM start time on the East Coast meant people were just leaving work in San Francisco when Game 2 began. Al Leiter was handed the task of getting the Mets back on track. Shawn Estes would try to hold serve for the Giants at home.
Wildness got Estes in trouble in the second. Two walks and a hit batsman loaded up the bases. Leiter was at the plate and his effort to get a bunt down didn’t work. But, on the verge of wasting their free gifts, the Mets got a clutch two-run single from Timo Perez and took the early lead.
San Francisco immediately got one back, when Kent singled to right, stole second and scored on a Burks double. But with no one out, Burks was left stranded and the score stayed 2-1. At this point, Leiter settled in. Kirk Reuters came out of the Giant bullpen in the fourth, and did the same. And by the ninth inning, we were still tied 2-1. But the evening was just beginning.
It didn’t seem that way when the Mets seemed to take out some insurance in the top of the ninth. Perez singled with two outs and Alfonzo homered. At 4-1, this series looked tied. But in the bottom of the inning, against Mets’ closer Armando Benitez, Bonds led off with a double and Kent legged out an infield hit. The tying run would come to the plate. Burks flied out, but pinch-hitter J.T. Snow delivered. A three-run jacked tied the game 4-4.
Felix Rodriguez was still on for San Francisco, after giving up the two runs in the ninth. In the 10th, he again got in trouble after getting the first two men out. Darryl Hamilton doubled, Jay Payton singled and New York reclaimed the lead, 5-4.
The Giants again made it interesting when Armando Rios began the bottom of the 10th with a base hit off John Franco. A sacrifice bunt and a groundball to the right side by Mueller moved the tying run to the third with two outs.
Bonds came to the plate. It was the height of drama. The Mets opted to pitch to Bonds rather than risk putting the winning run on base. On a full count, Bonds was caught looking. Ballgame. The series was tied.
Saturday, October 7
After a travel day, both series would resume on Saturday afternoon in the Eastern time zones. Kevin Millwood was pitching for the Braves, trying to keep his team alive. St. Louis went to Garrett Stephenson to go for the sweep. And it didn’t take long for the Cardinal bats to pick up where they left off. Vina began the game with a home run.
Atlanta tied it right back up in the home half of the first, with Furcal again getting something going. He drew a leadoff walk, stole second and eventually scored on a two-out hit from Galarraga. But in the third inning, Edmonds put his mark on yet another game in this series. After a Renteria single, Edmonds went deep. It was 3-1 St. Louis.
Edmonds’ assault on the Braves’ starting pitching continued in the fifth with an RBI double that chased Millwood. Trailing 4-1 and seeing their season slip away, Atlanta tried to rally in the bottom half of the fifth, working two walks off Cardinal reliever Britt Reames with one out. Andruw Jones was coming to the plate as the tying run. Reames got a groundball to second base that ended up as an inning-ending double play.
Blood was in the water and St. Louis went for the kill shot in the top of the sixth. Lankford walked, Hernandez singled and they were bunted up to second and third. Kerry Ligtenberg came out of the Atlanta bullpen to try and keep this one close. A Polanco groundball scored one run .A two-out, two-run single by Vina extended the lead to 7-1.
This series was all but over. The final twelve Atlanta batters went in order. A series between two teams that looked evenly matched had ended not just in a sweep, but with St. Louis outscoring Atlanta by a combined 24-10. It was a wipeout. Perhaps it wasn’t complete payback for 1996, when the Braves beat the Cardinals in the final three games of the NLCS by a combined score of 32-1. But it was dominating, and it would give St. Louis a chance to win their first pennant since 1987.
It was a busy day in the Big Apple, with the Yankees playing at home at night, and the Mets coming back to Shea Stadium for the matinee in Game 3. The pitching matchup here was Ron Reed for the Mets against the Giants’ Russ Ortiz. And once again, the pitching would be good and the game tight.
San Francisco threatened in the second and third inning, getting two runners aboard both times. Reed got big strikeouts. In the second, he got Rich Aurilia when a man was on third with less than two outs. And in the third, the New York starter K’d Kent, the soon-to-be National League MVP, to escape.
But Reed didn’t escape in the top of the fourth. Burks and Snow began the inning with singles. With one out, Bobby Estalella singled to drive in the game’s first run. An Ortiz bunt didn’t work, but Marvin Benard delivered a two-out base hit. The Giants were on top 2-0.
The Mets’ offense stayed quiet until the sixth. Mike Bordick drew a walk. Hamilton, batting for Reed, singled. Perez singled. The lead was cut to 2-1 and there were still none out. After the runners advanced to second and third on a groundball out, Piazza was intentionally walked. The bases were loaded with just one out.
Alan Embree came out of the Giant bullpen to face Robin Ventura. A groundball to Kent at second base started a double play and San Francisco held their lead.
All was quiet on both sides until the bottom of the eighth. Doug Henry was on out of the Giant bullpen, and he hit the leadoff batter. After getting the next two men out, Alfonzo doubled. The game was tied and Shea was roaring.
Once again, extra innings beckoned. Benitez escaped a first-and-second with one out jam in the top of the 10th. Rodriguez returned the favor by getting out of a first-and-second and no outs mess in the bottom of the 11th. Late afternoon turned into early evening. The game stretched to the 13th inning.
Agbayani was the one who ended it—a solo blast off Aaron Fultz gave the Mets a 3-2 win in the game and a 2-1 lead in the series.
Sunday, October 8
What a day it was to be a sports fan in New York City. The Jets were hosting the Steelers in the early afternoon. The Super Bowl-bound Giants were in the 4 PM slot. The Yankees would play a decisive Game 5 in Oakland in prime-time. And right here in Queens, the Mets were going for the clinch.
Mark Gardner was who San Francisco tapped to keep their season alive. Bobby Jones was the man for New York. And was Jones ever “the man” on this day.
The Mets gave their starter an early lead when Piazza worked a two-out walk in the first inning, followed by a Ventura home run.
It was 2-0, and Jones was dealing. The Giants’ first hit came in the fifth inning when Kent led off with a double, and then took third on a fly ball. Jones got Aurilia to hit a short fly ball out, preventing a tag-up, and then ended the inning. The 2-0 lead held until the bottom of the eighth.
With one out, Gardner—pitching a magnificent game himself—struck out Jones, but the ball got away and the Mets’ starter got down to first base. The door was open and New York bashed it down. Perez and Alfonzo hit back-to-back doubles. It was 4-0. Gardner was done for the day.
And, for all practical purposes, San Francisco’s excellent season was done. Kent’s double would be their only hit of the afternoon. Jones finished the job in the ninth. The Mets were going to the NLCS for the second straight year.
DIVISION SERIES MVPs
Baseball doesn’t formally crown a series MVP in the divisional round. But they should, so we’ll set the record straight here. Edmonds is an easy call in the Cardinals-Braves series. He went 8-for-14, homered twice and drove in seven runs. If we ever did a list of the best Division Series performances of all-time, this one would be on there, especially given two of the games were facing Maddux and Glavine. Shout outs go to Vina (4-for-13) and to James and Reames, who combined to pitch 7.2 innings of shutout relief. That’s big in a series where runs flowed freely.
The Mets-Giants battle had more interesting candidates. Alfonzo seemed to be everywhere, going 5-for-18 with five RBIs and all of his hits seeming to be big ones. Perez went 5-for-17 with his own share of clutch hits. Jones’ one-hit masterpiece certainly stands out in a series this short. But the edge has to go to Agbayani. His 5-for-15 showing is good overall. And the walkoff blast to win Game 3 was the biggest hit in a series that had a ton of them.
AFTERMATH FOR THE VANQUISHED
Atlanta wasn’t going anywhere—a string of division titles that already went back to 1991 would extend through 2005. But this playoff loss did mark a shift. Previous Brave teams either reached the NLCS or the World Series. The 2000 postseason marked a six-year stretch where Atlanta won just one postseason series. It was still a run of success most any fan base would sign up for. But it wasn’t what Braves fans had gotten used to.
San Francisco wasn’t going anywhere either. Even though they missed the playoffs in 2001, they were still a good team and the season was highlighted by Barry Bonds’ controversial single-season record 73 home runs. In 2002, the Giants made the World Series and got to five outs of winning it all.
AFTERMATH FOR THE VICTORS
The most immediate success was with the Mets, who would beat the Cardinals in five games in the upcoming NLCS round before dropping a tough World Series to the crosstown rival Yankees. But the long game belonged to St. Louis. After this 2000 season, New York failed to make the postseason again until 2006. The Cardinals were back in both 2001 and 2002. By 2004, they made it to the World Series, and in 2006, they won it.