ATLANTA, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Craig Counsell drove in four runs and the Arizona Diamondbacks capitalized on what was a nightmarish third inning for Atlanta Saturday night to down the Braves, 11-4, and move within one victory of the first World Series appearance in franchise history.
Atlanta committed three errors in the third, a league championship record, and superstar Greg Maddux unraveled both on the mound and in the field.
Maddux, pitching on three day's rest and being counted on by the Braves to help even the National League Championship Series, gave up eight hits and six runs while surviving just three innings. Arizona thus took a three games to one advantage and the Diamondbacks can earn a berth in the World Series Sunday night when Randy Johnson will take the mound against Tom Glavine.
The Braves, meanwhile, are on the verge of another disappointing end to a solid season. They have played in nine of the last 10 NLCS, but have reached the World Series just once since 1996. Atlanta actually outhit Arizona Saturday night, 13-12, but committed four errors overall that led to six unearned runs.
In many a game during his career, that has been enough for Maddux. But the Braves collapsed in the third inning to put themselves on the edge of elimination.
The bizarre third inning began with Tony Womack hitting a grounder to Chipper Jones at third base and Jones misplayed it for the first error of the frame.
Womack helped the Braves out by being thrown out at second base trying to steal, but Counsell immediately reached base when shorstop Rey Sanchez threw wildly to first for error No. 2.
Luis Gonzalez singled Counsell to third and Reggie Sanders then hit a routine bouncer that spelled the beginning of the end for Maddux. The ball came right back to Maddux and Counsell strayed off third base. Maddux ran toward Counsell, but when Counsell began to dash back to third, Chipper Jones failed to get to the bag in time to take a throw. That allowed Sanders to reach first with a fielder's choice and load the bases.
Up came Steve Finley, who lined a shot right back at Maddux. The ball glanced off the pitcher's glove, but he quickly retrieved it and threw home in an attempt to force Counsell. The ball sailed past catcher Paul Bako for an error and two runs scored.
Arizona increased its lead to 6-2 in the fourth when pinch-hitter David Dellucci singled, Womack doubled and Counsell drove in both runners with a double, ending the night and perhaps the season for Maddux.
Eventual winner Brian Anderson relieved Diamondbacks starter Albie Lopez after just three innings and held the Braves in check until the seventh inning, when Atlanta got a run back on Brian Jordan's RBI single.
But Arizona scored in the eighth when Counsell doubled home Womack and the Diamondbacks rubbed it in during the ninth by producing a four-run outburst after two were out. That inning was made possible by a throwing error by Sanchez, his second of the night. That kept the Diamondbacks at the plate and eventually led to an RBI single from Counsell and a three-run homer by Gonzalez.
"We are one game away from the World Series," Counsell said. We have to come out tomorrow and get it done. This was a team win tonight. Everybody who came in did something."