ATLANTA - The World Series had yesterday off, but the pitching and moaning didn't, David Justice spewing poison at Orel Hershiser and Atlanta's title-hungry fans.
The right fielder took exception to Hershiser's feelings about the Braves having more pressure and talked about how another Series loss could result in the local loyalists "trying to burn our homes down."
Off day? No way.
"I'm angry," outfielder David Justice said. "This team fights its heart out. Every year, we put out a good team. Then to hear so much negativity surrounding our team, it's just not fair. They've got pressure on them, too. They have to come here and beat us twice in our place. Both teams have pressure."
Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox was not exactly amused, either.
"Orel should keep his mouth shut," Cox said. "He can play games with babies somewhere. We're grown men here."
"Here I am, the stirrer," Cleveland's Hershiser said.
Still, he couldn't seem to avoid applying a little psychological needle.
"I'm not trying to put extra pressure on the Braves," he said. "I would be frustrated if I was a player on the other side and had three (World Series) chances and didn't win it."
Justice's remarks began with a challenge to Hershiser, basically inviting him to take the first swing. He was simmering over these words the pitcher used after beating the Braves 5-4 on Thursday, tightening Atlanta's Series lead to 3-2:
"I think the pressure is on them because they definitely have something to lose, and they lost the last two World Series they've participated in. The Atlanta fans probably wonder what's going on."
Countered Justice, using a more colorful verb than allowed by good taste: "For Orel to say there's more pressure on us . . . (forget) Orel. If he wants some, tell him to come over and get some. I'm angry."
Those deep thoughts were relayed to Hershiser, who promptly labeled himself "the spoon" for stirring up this controversy.
"I'll go over there all right," he said, "maybe just to say `hi' or make dinner plans."
He was then asked if he thought he could "take" Justice. "Yeah," Hershiser said, "to dinner."
There was no comic edge, however, to Justice's opinions of the Atlanta rooters. Having played three consecutive games in passion-filled, ear-rattling Jacobs Field, he was upset about the Braves' fans lacking in both volume and volume.
"What happens if we don't win? When's the parade then?" he said. "They'll run us out of Atlanta. You have to do something here to get them on their feet. Let us get down 1-0 (today), and we'll get booed out of the stadium.
"We didn't have anyone at our airport, wishing us well. It was, `Oh well, they're gone.' "
But yesterday's editions of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that about 1,000 fans greeted the Braves when they returned after their Game 5 loss. Associated Press reports said only 100 were in Cleveland to see the Indians off yesterday morning.
Still, Justice said the fans' expectations here offer no room for failure, not this time, not after the empty Series finishes of 1991 and '92. The Braves, particularly after opening a 3-1 lead against a franchise 41 years from its last appearance, are supposed to win this championship.
"Those have been the expectations since Day One," Justice said. "We have to win. There's more riding on this just because we're Atlanta. Our city isn't behind us like Cleveland. This is for the 25 guys in this room and the coaching staff.
"If we don't win, then you won't see me here until Opening Day next year," he said. "I'm gone that day - if they don't try to burn our houses down."
Given that feeling and the Braves' most recent uncashed World Series chances, Hershiser's more-pressure claim could have merit. Also consider that Atlanta already failed to end this with its best pitcher, Greg Maddux, working Game 5.
Now they have two more chances, two to win one. The first comes today when Tom Glavine opposes Dennis Martinez at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. It will be a rematch of Game 2, won by the Braves 4-3.