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Continued: Morris vs. Smoltz: A pitchers' duel that set the standard

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 14, 2007 - 1:07 AM

Morris carved his legend that night. After Kirby Puckett's home run off Charlie Leibrandt had ended Game 6, officials gathered Morris and Smoltz for a news conference.

It was about 1 a.m. when Morris said, "In the words of the late, great Marvin Gaye, 'Let's get it on.' "

Morris set down the Braves 1-2-3 in the ninth. At that point, Kelly told Morris this was all the Twins could ask: nine scoreless innings. Thanks. Rick Aguilera was ready in the bullpen.

But when Kelly walked away, Morris told pitching coach Dick Such he wasn't leaving the game.

"I know [Kelly] wanted to hear me say I was fine -- which I was," Morris said. "I was getting stronger. I had no reason to leave the game at that point. I think I had several innings left in the tank. What the heck? We were all going home the next day. You've got all winter to rest."

Morris retired the side again in the 10th. It was one of his easiest innings of the game.

"The first five innings, you're kind of running on emotion, and all of a sudden, you just dial it in," Morris said. "And then my adrenaline took over. I felt every inning after the fifth I was getting stronger. I didn't lose any velocity. My location was getting better."

Finally, in the Twins' 10th, a breakthrough.

Dan Gladden hit a leadoff double against Braves reliever Alejandro Pena. Knoblauch bunted Gladden to third. Cox ordered Kirby Puckett and Hrbek intentionally walked.

"The thing I remember most," Kelly said, "is sitting there in the dugout going, 'How on earth are we going to find a way to score one run?' "

With the bases loaded, Kelly sent up Gene Larkin as a pinch hitter, and Larkin lifted a fly ball over left fielder Brian Hunter's head.

Gladden scored, the Twins dogpiled as champions, and Smoltz retreated with his teammates to a silent clubhouse.

Morris, now 52, went on to win another World Series over the Braves the next year for Toronto. He retired in 1994 with a 6-1 career postseason record.

The 1991 postseason was the first for Smoltz, and now he is the all-time leader in postseason victories (15) and strikeouts (194).

That Game 7 often replays on ESPN Classic. Smoltz, now 40, said he's never been able to watch the whole thing.

"I will," he said. "I know when I'm sitting in my chair bored someday, 50 years old, I'll definitely pop that game in -- and have the same feelings as if I was right there."

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune.com

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