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Atlanta at Houston

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Atlanta00100000000006130
Houston «00410000000017101

Houston's Burke ends Atlanta's season in 18-inning marathon

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
  •  

HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens could see the Houston Astros were running out of pitchers.

"As the game went longer and longer, Phil finally came up to me and said get ready and get your spikes on. I may need you," the 43-year-old ace said. "Sometimes he jokes with me, but I knew he meant it."

Clemens came out of the bullpen to boost his team, then Chris Burke ended the longest postseason game in baseball history with a home run in the 18th inning, lifting the Astros over the Atlanta Braves 7-6 Sunday and into the NL Championship Series.

The Rocket's rescue also gave him a measure of redemption. Making his first relief appearance since 1984, he pitched three dominant innings and atoned for a poor start in Game 2.

Now, manager Phil Garner's team gets a matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals -- the same club Clemens lost to in Game 7 of last year's NLCS.

"I love this, this is why you get off the couch to play this game," said Clemens, who came out of retirement two years ago to pitch for his hometown club. "I've been fortunate to have played in a lot of big games, but it's still exciting."

The Braves took a five-run lead into the eighth, and were poised to send this first-round series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5 Monday night.

Instead, Lance Berkman hit a grand slam in the eighth and Brad Ausmus tied Game 4 with a two-out homer in the ninth barely beyond Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones' outstretched glove.

Then, at 6-all, the Braves and Astros began the real endurance test that wound up lasting 5 hours, 50 minutes. The previous longest postseason game also occurred in Houston -- the New York Mets clinched the 1986 NLCS with a 16-inning win at the Astrodome.

"I'm sure proud of the guys," Clemens said. "It's been a lot of work for us. How 'bout the kid?"

Standing next to Clemens, the 25-year-old Burke was beaming.

"I'm just glad I could do my part," Burke said. "It was draining, mentally draining."

When Burke hit the homer, Clemens was in the dugout tunnel with Craig Biggio, the 39-year-old second baseman who has spent his entire career in Houston.

"We were like two tired old men walking out of the tunnel, and then we were like two kids having a good time," Clemens said. "We were holding each other up."

The Astros get a few days to rest. The NLCS starts Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

"If he comes in a game like that, you know it has to be important to him," Jones said. "He was going to try not to make any mistakes, and he didn't. He pitched great."

Clemens gave up one hit and struck out four, setting up the first NLCS rematch since Pittsburgh and Atlanta played in 1991-92. Last October, Clemens could not hold an early lead in Game 7, denying the Astros their first World Series appearance.

The loss marked another early October exit for the Braves, who have won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles but have just one World Series crown to show for it. The Astros eliminated Atlanta last year.

"It never feels good, but I've had a couple of heartbreakers where I could have won the game, but instead ended the season," Chipper Jones said. "You learn from that."

The Braves wasted an early grand slam by Adam LaRoche. Berkman's shot made this the first postseason game ever with two slams.

Burke entered the game in the 10th inning as a pinch-runner. He came up with one out in the 18th against rookie Joey Devine, and launched a drive over the left-field wall.

Burke was mobbed his teammates at the plate after only the seventh series-ending home run in history, and the first since David Ortiz sent the Red Sox over the Angels in the 9th inning of Game 3 in the 2004 ALDS.

Batting just before Burke, Clemens took a mighty swing and missed against Devine before striking out. Clemens has never hit a home run in the majors.

Clemens first entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 15th, and had a sacrifice bunt after a leadoff walk by Biggio. But after another walk, Morgan Ensberg grounded into an inning-ending double play.

"It was kind of a microcosm of our season," Burke said. "Started out slow, finished strong."

The Astros started off 15-30 before rallying to claim the wild-card spot, though they finished 11 games behind St. Louis in the NL Central.

About three hours before the game finally ended, Ausmus hit his unlikely homer off Kyle Farnsworth. In the eighth, Farnsworth -- the latest in a long line of Atlanta relievers to fail in the postseason -- gave up the grand slam to Berkman after replacing Tim Hudson.

Ausmus, with just three homers in 134 regular-season games, hit a ball that ricocheted off a column in left-center field -- just above the yellow line signifying a home run. Had it hit about a foot more to the left, the ball would have still been in play and Ausmus held to a double.

The Astros thought they had another homer to win it in the 10th, but Luke Scott's drive down the left-field line curled just left of the pole. The crowd was already in a frenzy before realizing the ball had been called foul -- TV replays confirmed that it was. Scott grounded out on the next pitch.

Atlanta led 6-1 when Hudson, the Game 1 loser pitching on three days' rest, allowed the first two hitters to reach in the eighth and was pulled. Biggio reached on a fielder's choice grounder and Scott walked before Berkman's grand slam, an opposite-field shot into the seats in left.

Farnsworth managed to preserve the lead then, getting Ensberg on a called third strike before Mike Lamb's flyball that right fielder Jeff Francoeur caught on the warning track. He didn't have the same success against No. 8 hitter Ausmus an inning later.

LaRoche hit a grand slam in the third off Astros starter Brandon Backe, who loaded the bases after walking two batters and hitting another. Andruw Jones added a sacrifice fly to put the Braves up 5-0 in the fifth.

Brian McCann, the rookie catcher whose three-run homer off Clemens was the big blow in Game 2, put the Braves up 6-1 when he led off the eighth with a homer. McCann grounded out leading off the 17th in a rematch against the future Hall of Famer.

Notes

  • There were 553 total pitches. Clemens threw the last 44 of Houston's 299 pitches.
  • Nicole Oswalt, the wife of Astros pitcher and Game 3 winner Roy Oswalt, sang the national anthem before Sunday's game and God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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At age 43, Roger Clemens finds strength to hoist the hero after tossing three innings.
 
At age 43, Roger Clemens finds strength to hoist the hero after tossing three innings. (Getty Images)
 

Players of the Game
Houston

R. Clemens
IP 3.0
H 1
ER 0
BB 0
K 4
Houston

C. Burke
AB 2
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Atlanta Braves
Rafael Furcal, SS6000212 .150
Marcus Giles, 2B7210223 .200
Chipper Jones, 3B6110322 .176
Andruw Jones, CF6111114 .471
Adam LaRoche, 1B4124012 .500
    Julio Franco, 1B5010013 .222
Jeff Francoeur, RF7010122 .235
Ryan Langerhans, LF5020201 .333
Brian McCann, C81110410 .188
Tim Hudson, P4020010 .333
    Kyle Farnsworth, P0000000 .000
   a- Kelly Johnson, PH1000001 .000
    Chris Reitsma, P0000000 .000
   b- Wilson Betemit, PH1000011 .500
    John Thomson, P0000000 .000
   c- Pete Orr, PH1000003 .000
    Jim Brower, P0000000 .000
   d- Brian Jordan, PH1010000 .200
    Joey Devine, P0000000 .000
Totals626136111634 
a-grounded out for Farnsworth in the 10th
b-struck out for Reitsma in the 12th
c-hit into fielder's choice for Thomson in the 14th
d-doubled for Brower in the 17th
Batting
2B - Chipper Jones (2, Backe), Andruw Jones (3, Backe), Jeff Francoeur (1, Springer), Ryan Langerhans (1, Qualls), Tim Hudson (1, Springer), Brian Jordan (1, Clemens)
HR - Adam LaRoche (1, Backe), Brian McCann (2, Rodriguez)
SF - Andruw Jones (1)
SH - Rafael Furcal (1), Jeff Francoeur (1)
RBI - Andruw Jones (5), Adam LaRoche 4 (6), Brian McCann (5)
2-OUT RBI - Adam LaRoche 4 (6)
SB - Rafael Furcal 2 (3, 2nd base off Lidge/Ausmus, 3rd base off Lidge/Ausmus), Ryan Langerhans (1, 2nd base off Lidge/Ausmus)
Team LOB - 18
Fielding
DP - Furcal-Giles-LaRoche, Furcal-Giles-Franco
Atlanta Braves
Tim Hudson 7633150 5.27
Kyle Farnsworth 2233132 9.00
Chris Reitsma 2100100 16.20
John Thomson 2000130 0.00
Jim Brower 3000200 0.00
Joey Devine (L,0-1) 1.1111031 10.80
IBB - Ensberg by Chris Reitsma
Pitches-Strikes - Tim Hudson 92-58, Kyle Farnsworth 41-24, Chris Reitsma 35-22, John Thomson 29-20, Jim Brower 34-18, Joey Devine 23-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tim Hudson 7-8, Kyle Farnsworth 2-1, Chris Reitsma 2-4, Jim Brower 5-3
Batters Faced - Tim Hudson 27, Kyle Farnsworth 9, Chris Reitsma 8, John Thomson 7, Jim Brower 10, Joey Devine 5
Houston Astros
Craig Biggio, 2B7100124 .316
Willy Taveras, CF3000000 .357
   a- Luke Scott, PH-LF2100110 .000
    Dan Wheeler, P0000000 .000
   b- Roger Clemens, PH-P1000010 .000
Lance Berkman, LF-1B5124010 .357
    Chris Burke, PR-CF^LF2111100 .667
Morgan Ensberg, 3B6000121 .278
Mike Lamb, 1B4020000 .500
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
   c- Jeff Bagwell, PH1000002 .500
    Brad Lidge, P0000000 .000
    Raul Chavez, C-1B1000100 .000
Jason Lane, RF7110023 .235
Adam Everett, SS3010002 .214
    Wandy Rodriguez, P0000000 .000
    Jose Vizcaino, SS-1B^SS4000010 .000
Brad Ausmus, C-1B^C6121110 .222
Brandon Backe, P1000000 .000
    Mike Gallo, P0000000 .000
   d- Orlando Palmeiro, PH0001000 .143
    Russ Springer, P0000000 .000
    Eric Bruntlett, SS-CF^SS^CF5110030 .167
Totals58710761412 
a-walked for Taveras in the 8th
b-hit a sacrifice bunt for Wheeler in the 15th
c-flied out for Qualls in the 10th
d-hit a sacrifice fly for Gallo in the 5th
Batting
2B - Lance Berkman (1, Reitsma)
HR - Lance Berkman (1, Farnsworth), Chris Burke (1, Devine), Brad Ausmus (1, Farnsworth)
SF - Orlando Palmeiro (1)
SH - Roger Clemens (1)
RBI - Lance Berkman 4 (5), Chris Burke (1), Brad Ausmus (1), Orlando Palmeiro (3)
2-OUT RBI - Brad Ausmus (1)
SB - Craig Biggio (1, 2nd base off Farnsworth/McCann), Eric Bruntlett (1, 3rd base off Farnsworth/McCann)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Lance Berkman 1
DP - Biggio-Everett-Lamb, Ensberg-Biggio-Berkman
E - Jose Vizcaino (1, Wild throw)
Houston Astros
Brandon Backe 4.1555321 8.44
Mike Gallo 0.2000100 0.00
Russ Springer 2300100 3.86
Wandy Rodriguez 1111021 9.00
Chad Qualls 2100110 6.00
Brad Lidge 2100230 0.00
Dan Wheeler 3100340 2.08
Roger Clemens (W,1-1) 3100040 5.63
IBB - Francoeur by Mike Gallo, Langerhans by Dan Wheeler
HBP - A. Jones (by Brandon Backe), Langerhans (by Mike Gallo)
WP - Brandon Backe (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Brandon Backe 72-42, Mike Gallo 9-3, Russ Springer 34-19, Wandy Rodriguez 16-10, Chad Qualls 24-16, Brad Lidge 45-25, Dan Wheeler 55-29, Roger Clemens 44-26
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brandon Backe 5-6, Mike Gallo 2-0, Russ Springer 2-2, Chad Qualls 4-0, Brad Lidge 1-2, Dan Wheeler 3-2, Roger Clemens 4-2
Batters Faced - Brandon Backe 22, Mike Gallo 4, Russ Springer 8, Wandy Rodriguez 4, Chad Qualls 7, Brad Lidge 9, Dan Wheeler 13, Roger Clemens 11
Game Information
Attendance - 43413
Game Time - 5:50
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Gary Cederstrom, First Base - Eric Cooper, Second Base - Sam Holbrook, Third Base - Joe Brinkman