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Atlanta at Houston

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Atlanta (72-90)000010000163
Houston (86-75) «00201000x381

Chipper first NL switch-hitting batting champ since '91

CBSSports.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- Houston's season finale belonged to Brad Ausmus.

The 39-year-old catcher hit a two-run homer in his final game with the team and the Astros finished with a 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

Ausmus caught a franchise-record 1,249 games in 10 seasons. A free agent, Ausmus has said he will retire if he can't sign with a team based closer to his home in San Diego.

After a pre-game ceremony, Ausmus added one more highlight in his first at-bat.

Jose Castillo doubled in the third inning for Houston's first hit off Mike Hampton (3-4) and Ausmus drove the next pitch into the left-field porch, his third homer of the season and first since Aug. 24.

"The home run is icing on the cake," Ausmus said. "Today ranks up there as one of the days I'll remember the rest of my life."

Wandy Rodriguez (9-7) struck out six in seven strong innings and Jose Valverde shut out the Braves in the ninth to tie a franchise record with his 44th save. Billy Wagner saved 44 games for Houston in 2003.

Chipper Jones secured his first NL batting title, walking in his only at-bat. Jones hit a career-high .364 to edge Albert Pujols and become the NL's first switch-hitting batting champion since Terry Pendleton won in his 1991 MVP season for Atlanta.

"It's a tremendous feather in the cap, from an individual standpoint," Jones said.

It was one of the only bright spots this season for the Braves, who finished 72-90 -- their worst record since going 65-97 in 1990. The next year, Atlanta began its run of 14 consecutive division titles.

"We've got a good handle on what we've got and what we need," manager Bobby Cox said.

Before the game, the Astros played a tongue-in-cheek video tribute to Ausmus on the scoreboard, with playful jabs from former teammates Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell and current players Lance Berkman and Mark Loretta.

Owner Drayton McLane presented Ausmus with a red surfboard with an Astros logo before Ausmus' daughters, 10-year-old Sophie and 9-year-old Abigail, threw out the ceremonial first pitches.

"The end of the video, I was as emotional as I get," Ausmus said. "I smiled."

Hampton played for the Astros from 1994-99, including two seasons with Ausmus. The two remain close friends, so Ausmus knew what was coming when they faced each other for the first time Sunday.

"I was banking on him giving me a courtesy, first-pitch fastball," Ausmus said. "I guess I guessed right."

Hampton struck out Ausmus in the fifth.

"We've got a pretty good friendship," Hampton said. "He told me the last at-bat is the one everyone remembers. I made him look stupid on his last at-bat."

Houston manager Cecil Cooper had started pulling his starters in the top of the fifth. Before the Braves batted, Edwin Maysonet replaced Miguel Tejada at shortstop and Mark Saccomanno came in for Berkman at first base.

Berkman went down the line to embrace Ausmus before leaving the field to a standing ovation. Berkman finished with a .312 average, his fourth season over .300. He'll be one of the veterans expected to bring leadership next year with Ausmus leaving.

"It's sad and it probably won't sink in until next year when he's not there," Berkman said. "He's such a personality and such a presence in the clubhouse. He'll be missed."

Maysonet made a throwing error on Brent Lillibridge's grounder in the fifth and the Braves shortstop went to second. He advanced on Rodriguez's balk and came home on Corky Miller's groundout to make it 2-1.

Ty Wigginton beat out an infield hit in the Houston fifth. Reggie Abercrombie pinch-ran, stole second and went to third when Miller's throw skipped into center field. Rodriguez, a .103 hitter, singled to center to get his first RBI of the season and fifth of his career.

Ausmus took the field for the sixth, but J.R. Towles came out to replace him. Ausmus hoisted his helmet to acknowledge a long ovation as he walked off, then made a curtain call before disappearing into the dugout for the last time in a Houston uniform. "I was very touched," Ausmus said. "The video was hilarious, payback for all the barbs I've been throwing around this locker room for years. I really enjoyed it."

LaTroy Hawkins replaced Rodriguez for the eighth. He gave up a single to Ruben Gotay, but retired the next three batters to secure his 22nd scoreless outing in 24 appearances since Houston acquired him from the New York Yankees on July 30.

Valverde gave up a single to Kelly Johnson and walked Jones in the ninth, but Brian McCann popped out for the final out of the season.

Notes

  • Ausmus ranks ninth all-time in games caught (1,887).
  • Johnson recorded hits in 24 of 25 games in September. He had a 22-game hitting streak snapped on Friday.
  • Houston went 42-24 after the All-Star break.
 
Copyright 2015 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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'It's a tremendous feather in the cap,' Chipper Jones says after winning his first batting title.  (AP)
'It's a tremendous feather in the cap,' Chipper Jones says after winning his first batting title. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

W. Rodriguez
IP 7.0
H 4
ER 0
BB 0
K 6
Houston

B. Ausmus
AB 2
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
 

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Atlanta Braves
Josh Anderson, CF4010021 .294
Martin Prado, 3B4000012 .320
Kelly Johnson, 2B4020000 .287
Jeff Francoeur, RF4000032 .239
Casey Kotchman, 1B4010001 .272
Matt Diaz, LF3000001 .244
   a- Chipper Jones, PH0000100 .364
Brent Lillibridge, SS3110011 .200
   b- Brian McCann, PH1000002 .301
Corky Miller, C2001010 .083
   c- Ruben Gotay, PH1010000 .235
    Julian Tavarez, P0000000 .000
Mike Hampton, P2000000 .208
    Jeff Bennett, P0000000 .222
   d- Greg Norton, PH1000001 .262
    Clint Sammons, C0000000 .148
Totals3316118  
a-walked for Diaz in the 9th
b-fouled out for Lillibridge in the 9th
c-singled for Miller in the 8th
d-flied out for J. Bennett in the 8th
Batting
RBI - Corky Miller (5)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Jeff Francoeur 2
DP - Lillibridge
E - Mike Hampton (1, Throwing), Brent Lillibridge (6, Missed catch of throw(PLay went Francoeur to Lillibridge to Kotchman to Johnson), Corky Miller (3, Throwing)
Atlanta Braves
Mike Hampton (L,3-4) 6433051 4.85
Jeff Bennett 1100000 3.70
Julian Tavarez 1300010 5.10
HBP - Abercrombie (by Jeff Bennett)
Pitches-Strikes - Mike Hampton 76-53, Jeff Bennett 14-8, Julian Tavarez 15-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mike Hampton 8-5, Jeff Bennett 2-0
Batters Faced - Mike Hampton 22, Jeff Bennett 4, Julian Tavarez 5
Houston Astros
Kazuo Matsui, 2B3000001 .293
    David Newhan, 2B1010000 .260
Michael Bourn, CF4010000 .229
Miguel Tejada, SS2000010 .283
    Edwin Maysonet, SS2000013 .143
Lance Berkman, 1B2000010 .312
    Mark Saccomanno, 1B2000013 .200
Hunter Pence, RF3000000 .269
Ty Wigginton, LF2010000 .285
    Reggie Abercrombie, PR-LF0100000 .309
Jose Castillo, 3B3120011 .246
Brad Ausmus, C2112010 .218
    J.R. Towles, C1000001 .137
Wandy Rodriguez, P2011000 .122
    LaTroy Hawkins, P0000000 .000
   a- Mark Loretta, PH1010000 .280
    Jose Valverde, P0000000 .000
Totals3038306  
a-singled for Hawkins in the 8th
Batting
2B - Jose Castillo (29, Hampton)
HR - Brad Ausmus (3, Hampton)
RBI - Brad Ausmus 2 (24), Wandy Rodriguez (1)
2-OUT RBI - Wandy Rodriguez (1)
SB - Reggie Abercrombie (5, 3rd base off Hampton/Miller)
CS - Reggie Abercrombie (2, 2nd base by J. Bennett/Miller)
Team LOB - 4
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E - Edwin Maysonet (1, Throwing)
Houston Astros
Wandy Rodriguez (W,9-7) 7410060 3.54
LaTroy Hawkins (H,13) 1100020 3.92
Jose Valverde (S,44) 1100100 3.38
Pitches-Strikes - Wandy Rodriguez 85-64, LaTroy Hawkins 25-16, Jose Valverde 16-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Wandy Rodriguez 7-8, Jose Valverde 1-2
Batters Faced - Wandy Rodriguez 25, LaTroy Hawkins 4, Jose Valverde 5
Game Information
Attendance - 37113
Game Time - 2:19
Temperature - 86
Umpires - Home - C.B. Bucknor, First Base - Joe West, Second Base - Ed Rapuano, Third Base - Ed Hickox