Postseason play eludes Braves
When the final three games of the season stared the Braves right in the face, all they needed to do was win one game.
Coming into the series, the Braves were 9-15 in September, by far the teams worst month of the season.
But these last three games gave the Braves a chance to either secure the final playoff spot or set up a one-game playoff with the St. Louis Cardinals, who were visiting the Houston Astros.
The heartache began Monday, as the Braves took an early 2-0 lead off Phillies starter Cliff Lee.
Chipper Jones gave the offense a boost with a solo shot in the bottom of the 1st before back-to-back doubles from Matt Diaz and Alex Gonzalez plated the Braves second run.
That was all Lee allowed, in what was his final start before the Phillies enter the postseason.
But the Braves arms were unable to hold off the Phillies, as starter Randall Delgado, Cristhian Martinez and Jonny Venters each were tagged for runs with Delgado giving up two, watching the Phillies take the opener, 4-2, while earning the franchises 100th victory of the season.
With the Astros beating the Cardinals, 5-4, in 10 innings, the Braves maintained the one-game lead they carried into the series.
Tuesday was nothing more than a dagger to the heart, as the Phillies dominated Derek Lowe once again, scoring five runs on six hits over four innings off the once-dependable starter, en route to a 7-1 victory.
The Braves lone run came in the 9th on Martin Prado’s solo homer.
In Houston, the Cardinals came back from a 5-run deficit to score 13 of the games final 14 runs in a 13-6 victory, tying the two squads atop the NL Wild Card race.
With the season on its final day Wednesday, the Braves knew they were in a do-or-die situation, as the Cardinals had won 22 of 31 games heading into the season-finale.
The Phillies got on the board first with a run in the 1st before the Braves battled back, tying the game in the bottom half of the 1st on Chipper’s sacrifice fly before Dan Uggla’s two-run shot gave the Braves a huge boost and a 3-1 lead.
But the Phillies showed why they were the only team with 100 wins this season, scoring a run in the 7th to make it 3-2, another in the 9th off closer Craig Kimbrel before winning it in the 13th off Scott Linebrink.
In his final start of the season, Tim Hudson showed why he is the Braves’ ace, throwin 6 1/3 strong innings before leaving the game to watch Eric O’Flaherty get an inning-ending double play, just after the Phillies scored made it a 3-2 game.
Hudson allowed two runs on 6 hits while striking out 4 and walking just one. For Kimbrel, it was his 8th blown save of his otherwise impressive rookie season.
This wasn’t to say the Braves didn’t have their chances to give their pitching staff a little more room for error.
The Braves left two runners on in the 2nd, Michael Bourn was thrown out trying to steal 3rd before Uggla’s home run, Uggla was thrown out at home by Hunter Pence attempting to score from second on a Jack Wilson single in the 6th and in the 12th, Jason Heyward was stranded at third base as Prado grounded out to end the inning.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals took care of business early, using a 5-run first inning and a dominant performance by Chris Carpenter to earn the NL’s Wild Card berth.
The Braves loss was their 5th in a row, marking the first time of the season the club had lost five straight, and the third time it had been swept. Each of the times the Braves were swept happened in September - two to Philadelphia and one to St. Louis.