. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Braves Stifle Cards to Force Game 7

ATLANTA, Georgia -- Four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux held the St. Louis Cardinals to one run as the Atlanta Braves forced a seventh and deciding game in the National League Championship Series with a 3-1 win.

Maddux and reliever Mark Wholers combined on a six-hitter to turn the series into a one-game, winner-goes-to the-World Series showdown.

For the second consecutive game, the defending world champions staved off elimination as Atlanta's vaunted pitching staff shut down the St. Louis attack.

Maddux shook off his Game 2 loss Wednesday, with a masterful performance from the mound. He allowed four hits and struck out seven without a walk through seven shutout innings before tiring in the eighth, when the Cardinals got their lone run.

Two nights after exploding for 22 hits in a 14-0 rout, the Braves scratched out single runs in the second and fifth innings before adding an insurance run in the eighth against surprise rookie starter Alan Benes and three relievers.

Maddux lowered his post-season ERA to a stingy 1.69 and threw no more than five pitches to any batter except St. Louis' Game 2 hero Ron Gant, who still went 0-for-4.

In Game 7 on Thursday night in Atlanta, the Braves send Tom Glavine against the Cardinals' Donovan Osborne in a battle of left-handers to decide who faces the American League champion New York Yankees in the World Series.

The Braves opened the scoring in the second inning. Fred McGriff singled and Javy Lopez, who needed intravenous fluids before the game to help combat the effects of the flu, doubled to right-center, sending McGriff to third. Jermaine Dye then lifted a sacrifice fly to right, bringing McGriff home.

After allowing a one-out single to Willie McGee in the first, Maddux had set down 11 in a row until Gary Gaetti singled to lead off the fifth. But Maddux got the next three batters and Atlanta scored again in the bottom half.

Benes hit Jeff Blauser and Maddux sacrificed him to second before Mark Lemke, who had four hits in Game 5, delivered an RBI single to center to make it 2-0.

Benes, who was named to start in place of Osborne just hours before the game, was charged with two runs on three hits in absorbing the loss.

In the seventh inning the Braves had an apparent run that would have made it 3-0 erased. Lemke bounced a single in front of the plate that St. Louis reliever Mark Petkovsek threw past first for a two-base error, putting Lemke on third.

He scored on a flyout by Chipper Jones, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa appealed, saying Lemke left third before the catch. Third-base umpire Bob Davidson upheld the appeal, although replays showed Lemke appeared to break for home after the catch.

"Several [of our] guys jumped at it right away and they were real clear in their minds he left early," said La Russa.

That's when the Cardinals gave Atlanta fans a few nervous moments.

In the top of the eighth with two out Maddux allowed singles to Royce Clayton and Willie McGee that put runners at the corners.

Cox brought in Wholers and he promptly bounced a wild pitch past Lopez that enabled Clayton to score and make it a one-run ballgame. But Wholers settled down, getting Gant to fly out before setting down the side in order in the ninth to secure victory.

In between, the Braves had given Wholers a bit of breathing room when Rafael Belliard stroked a single to shortstop that Clayton couldn't handle, bringing home Lopez for a 3-1 lead. Lopez had been hit by a pitch from Todd Stottlemyre and advanced to third on Dye's single to right-center.