Solution for Braves' pen never comes

Associated Press
Published October 10, 2005

HOUSTON - The Braves tried everything possible this season to fix a bullpen that has often failed in October.

They never could.

Another postseason ended early for the Braves, ruined by a bullpen that couldn't help Atlanta hold a five-run cushion.

The Braves took a 6-1 lead into the eighth inning behind Tim Hudson , who was working on three days' rest, but ended up with a 7-6 loss in 18 innings and their fourth straight first-round exit.

"It was a great game," closer Kyle Farnsworth said. "It was just a matter of whoever got the best break to win it in the end."

After returning John Smoltz to the rotation and watching as Dan Kolb and Chris Reitsma failed to hold the job, Atlanta acquired Farnsworth in July to be the closer. Farnsworth gave up two homers, including Brad Ausmus ' tying drive in the ninth that left veteran Braves stunned.

"That was really the point in the game that you look in the dugout and say, "Somebody pinch me,"' Chipper Jones said.

Farnsworth replaced Hudson in the eighth. After a fielder's choice, he walked pinch-hitter Luke Scott to load the bases and gave up Lance Berkman 's grand slam that made it 6-5. He got two outs in the ninth before allowing Ausmus' homer.

"You've got to give them credit," Farnsworth said. "They kept battling and battling. It's just one of those things that happens."

Reitsma, starter John Thomson and Jim Brower pitched eight shutout innings.

But the Braves then had to turn to rookie Joey Devine , the first player to allow a grand slam in each of his first two career appearances. Chris Burke sent Devine's 2-and-0 pitch into the leftfield boxes for the winner.

"My first thought process was just keep it in the yard," Devine said. "Eighteen innings of baseball. That's unbelievable for two teams to go at it like that. It's the best game I've ever been a part of. I just want to keep learning and learning."

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: When Astros manager Phil Garner argued against the completion of a double play that ended his team's seventh-inning rally in Game 3 against Atlanta on Saturday night, he told umpire Gary Cederstrom to watch the replay and see what he missed.

Well, Garner watched the replay several times himself after the game.

"I have to eat a little crow," Garner said, acknowledging that Cederstrom got the call right.

Ausmus' grounder to first started a 3-6-1 double play that ended the inning in which the Astros scored four off four relievers in a 7-3 victory.