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Houston at Atlanta

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Houston000000100192
Atlanta «11100000x330

Astros blow their chance, can't get it done against Braves

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
  •  

ATLANTA -- Only two weeks ago, the Houston Astros were such a long shot to make the playoffs that it didn't seem they even had a chance to finish .500.

The Astros then took off on a determined comeback attempt that was so impressive manager Phil Garner couldn't believe his team fell short of the playoffs with Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on the last day of the season.

"I really got to believing we were going to carry this out," Garner said after the defending NL champion Astros were eliminated from the Central race.

Added Garner: "I am a little disappointed and a little surprised we didn't win today."

The Astros outhit the Braves 9-3, but they left 11 on base and committed two errors that led to two unearned runs.

John Smoltz pitched six shutout innings and relievers Tyler Yates and Bob Wickman finished the game with 2 1/3 perfect innings to end any comeback hopes.

The Astros' loss clinched the division title for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Houston trailed the Cardinals by 8½ games on Aug. 19, when the Astros were 72-78. They pulled within a half-game of the lead with a nine-game winning streak that ended Friday night at Atlanta.

The Astros went into the final day trailing St. Louis by 1½ games and finished at 82-80. If Houston had won and St. Louis had lost to Milwaukee, the Cardinals would've had to play a makeup game Monday against San Francisco.

Some Houston players had difficulty accepting there would be no postseason.

"It's a little bit like somebody swept the rug out from under you," said reliever Brad Lidge. "It's a little shocking."

Added Mike Lamb: "I think it's hard to handle because we had nine hits and one run. The only thing I hope is that we learn from this experience. We have to be better in situational baseball."

Chris Sampson and five Houston relievers combined to give up only three hits, but the Braves capitalized on two errors for runs in the first and third innings.

Jeff Francoeur's 29th homer gave Atlanta its other run.

The Braves will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, but they knocked out Houston, which beat Atlanta in the 2005 and 2004 division series.

"Oh, no doubt, we wanted to knock them out," said Atlanta's Andruw Jones. "We didn't want then to make the playoffs. We just wanted to go out there and hurt them.

"The last two years they've been killing us. We wanted to show them that we're still the Atlanta Braves," he said.

Smoltz (16-9) gave up six hits and struck out five. He walked three and also hit a batter.

"You have to give credit where credit is due," said Houston's Adam Everett. "Smoltz pitched a good game. He's that good for a reason."

Smoltz left runners stranded in scoring position in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings.

Wickman pitched the ninth for his 18th save in 19 chances with Atlanta. Traded from Cleveland late in the season, he wound up with 33 saves overall.

Marcus Giles led off the Atlanta first with a grounder to second baseman Chris Burke, whose throw to first sailed over Lance Berkman for an error. Giles later scored from third on Chipper Jones' grounder, beating Berkman's throw to the plate.

Francoeur's homer in the second inning pushed the lead to 2-0.

A throwing error by Lamb at third base gave Atlanta another unearned run in the third inning. With one out, Edgar Renteria walked and moved to second on Jones' single. Andruw Jones followed with a grounder to Lamb, who stepped on third for the force out on Renteria before throwing wide of first base for the error, allowing a run to score.

Despite having runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning, the Astros couldn't score.

Aubrey Huff led off with a walk and moved to third on Burke's bloop double to shallow left field. With one out, Humberto Quintero hit a fly ball to right and Francoeur made a sliding catch, quickly springing to his feet to throw out Huff at the plate.

"The big play of the game was Francoeur throwing that guy out," Smoltz said. "They gambled and they lost. They know he's got a great arm. I didn't think they would go but when he went down to the ground they probably thought he had a chance."

Sampson (2-1) gave up only two hits and three runs -- one earned -- in four innings.

The Astros got a run in the seventh against Macay McBride on singles by Willy Taveras, Lamb and Berkman.

Notes

  • Smoltz moved into 19th place on the all-time strikeout list, breaking a tie with Frank Tanana, when he fanned Taveras in the first inning for No. 2,774th.
 
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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Aubrey Huff and the Astros are out, despite a hard late charge. Houston just misses the playoffs.  (AP)
Aubrey Huff and the Astros are out, despite a hard late charge. Houston just misses the playoffs. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

L. Berkman
AB 4
R 0
H 3
HR 0
RBI 1
Atlanta

J. Smoltz
IP 6.0
H 6
ER 0
BB 3
K 5
 
Houston Astros
Willy Taveras, CF5120030
Mike Lamb, 3B5020001
Lance Berkman, 1B4031100
Luke Scott, LF3000015
Aubrey Huff, RF3000125
Chris Burke, 2B4020002
Adam Everett, SS3000102
Humberto Quintero, C3000002
   a- Craig Biggio, PH1000000
    Chad Qualls, P0000000
Chris Sampson, P1000000
   b- Jason Lane, PH1000010
    Fernando Nieve, P0000000
    Wandy Rodriguez, P0000000
   c- Orlando Palmeiro, PH1000012
    Russ Springer, P0000000
    Brad Lidge, P0000000
   d- Brad Ausmus, PH-C1000000
Totals351913819 
a-flied out for Quintero in the 8th
b-struck out for Sampson in the 5th
c-struck out for Rodriguez in the 6th
d-grounded out for Lidge in the 8th
Batting
2B - Chris Burke (, Smoltz)
RBI - Lance Berkman ()
Team LOB - 11
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Willy Taveras 1
DP - Taveras-Quintero
E - Chris Burke (, Throwing), Mike Lamb (, Throwing)
Houston Astros
Chris Sampson (L,-) 4231231
Fernando Nieve 0.1100210
Wandy Rodriguez 0.2000000
Russ Springer 1000010
Brad Lidge 1000000
Chad Qualls 1000000
Pitches-Strikes - Chris Sampson 63-41, Fernando Nieve 23-11, Wandy Rodriguez 4-3, Russ Springer 8-6, Brad Lidge 6-6, Chad Qualls 5-4
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chris Sampson 7-4, Russ Springer 2-0, Brad Lidge 3-0
Batters Faced - Chris Sampson 18, Fernando Nieve 4, Wandy Rodriguez 1, Russ Springer 3, Brad Lidge 3, Chad Qualls 3
Atlanta Braves
Marcus Giles, 2B4100010
Edgar Renteria, SS2010100
Chipper Jones, 3B3111100
Andruw Jones, CF3000111
Brian McCann, C4000005
Jeff Francoeur, RF3111010
Daryle Ward, 1B3000010
    Macay McBride, P0000000
    Tyler Yates, P0000000
    Bob Wickman, P0000000
Ryan Langerhans, LF2000110
John Smoltz, P2000001
    Scott Thorman, 1B1000000
Totals27332457 
Batting
2B - Edgar Renteria (, Nieve)
HR - Jeff Francoeur (, Sampson)
SH - Edgar Renteria ()
RBI - Chipper Jones (), Jeff Francoeur ()
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Jeff Francoeur 1
DP - Francoeur-McCann
Atlanta Braves
John Smoltz (W,-) 6600350
Macay McBride (H,) 0.2311020
Tyler Yates (H,) 1.1000000
Bob Wickman (S,) 1000010
HBP - Scott (by John Smoltz)
WP - John Smoltz ()
Pitches-Strikes - John Smoltz 107-71, Macay McBride 20-11, Tyler Yates 7-6, Bob Wickman 8-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - John Smoltz 4-8, Tyler Yates 2-2, Bob Wickman 1-1
Batters Faced - John Smoltz 27, Macay McBride 5, Tyler Yates 4, Bob Wickman 3
Game Information
Attendance - 36030
Game Time - 2:34
Temperature - 78
Umpires - Home - Tom Hallion, First Base - Larry Young, Second Base - Gerry Davis, Third Base - Alfonso Marquez