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NL ROUNDUP

Braves Going to St. Louis After Losing

October 02, 2000|From Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves were one strike away from opening the postseason on Tuesday at Turner Field.

Todd Helton changed that in a hurry.

The Braves blew their chance to clinch home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs when third baseman Chipper Jones' two-out error in the ninth inning set up Helton's homer on an 0-2 pitch and helped Colorado to a 10-5 victory Sunday at Atlanta in the regular-season finale.

The Rockies rallied for seven runs in the ninth, six of which were charged to John Rocker.

Asked to comment, Rocker said: "Do I ever talk? Ask these guys," waving his hand in the direction of the Atlanta media.

As a result of the loss, coupled with the Cardinals' 6-2 victory over Cincinnati, Atlanta will start the best-of-five playoff series Tuesday at St. Louis.

The Braves and Cardinals both finished 95-67, and St. Louis won the tiebreaker because it was 4-3 against Atlanta this season.

Rocker took over to start the ninth with a 5-3 lead. With two outs and two on, Jeff Cirillo hit a grounder that skipped off Jones' glove for an error, allowing a run to score.

Helton followed with a three-run homer. He ended up leading the major leagues in batting (.372) and RBIs (147). His batting average was fractions ahead of Boston's Nomar Garciaparra. He also had 42 homers.

St. Louis 6, Cincinnati 2--The Cardinals wrapped up home field in the first round by beating the Reds at St. Louis, and Andy Benes made a strong pitch for a spot in the starting rotation for the playoffs.

Benes (12-9) won his second straight start since coming off the disabled list Sept. 2 by allowing only two runs in six innings.

Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa said he is not certain what Benes' role will be. He said Darryl Kile and Rick Ankiel are the only definite starters.

Florida 7, Philadelphia 5--Preston Wilson drove in two runs to break Gary Sheffield's team record with 121 RBIs and the Marlins beat the Phillies at Miami to close out the season with seven consecutive wins.

Wilson struck out once, giving him 187 and leaving him two short of Bobby Bonds' major league record.

Earlier in the day, Phillie Manager Terry Francona, whose club finished last in the NL East with the second-worst record in the league at 65-97, was fired. The Phillies lost 11 of their last 14 games.

On another matter, Marlin General Manager Dave Dombrowski said the team will not exercise a one-year option on Henry Rodriguez's contract, making the 32-year-old outfielder a free agent. Rodriguez came to the Marlins from the Chicago Cubs in late August for two minor-leaguers.

New York 3, Montreal 2--Benny Agbayani scored the winning run from second base in the 13th inning for the Mets at New York when Expo third baseman Geoff Blum threw away Jorge Velandia's bunt.

Velandia bunted down the third-base line and Blum threw it over shortstop Tomas De la Rosa's head. The error was the third of the game for Blum, who had only six coming into the game.

Agbayani, hobbled recently by a strained right hamstring, was just trying to get to third. "That was a big, big test for me right there," he said.

The Mets, who have won eight of their last nine, open the playoffs Wednesday as the NL wild-card team against the NL West champion San Francisco Giants.

Manager Bobby Valentine announced before the game that Mike Hampton (15-10) would start Game 1, Al Leiter (16-8) would start Game 2, and Rick Reed (11-5) Game 3. Reed started Sunday's game but threw only two innings.

San Francisco 11, Arizona 4--Randy Johnson, trying to win 20 games for the second time in his career, was knocked out of the game at Phoenix after Calvin Murray's fourth-inning grand slam, and the Giants went on to win their regular-season finale.

Johnson (19-7) last won 20 games in 1997, when he finished 20-4.

Chicago 10, Pittsburgh 9--Shane Andrews' two-run double in the eighth inning gave the Cubs a victory over the Pirates in their final game at Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates are moving across a parking lot next year to PNC Park.

Sammy Sosa finished with 50 homers, his lowest total since 1997 but enough to lead the major leagues.

Houston 6, Milwaukee 1--Daryle Ward hit a two-run homer, the 266th homer hit at Houston's Enron Field, in the Astros' victory over the Brewers. Last year at the Astrodome, there were 118 homers.

Most of the Astro regulars didn't play, including Jeff Bagwell, whose 152 runs scored is the highest total in the majors since Lou Gehrig had 167 in 1936 and the most in the NL since Chuck Klein had 152 in 1932.

The Brewers, who have had eight consecutive losing seasons, finished 73-89 in their first season under Manager Davey Lopes.

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