Chipper chops down Astros in Game 1
Wednesday, October 10, 2001
HOUSTON -- Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves remembered how to win in October. And the Houston Astros still haven't figured it out.
Jones hit a three-run homer off nemesis Billy Wagner in the eighth inning and the Braves ended a seven-game postseason losing streak, beating the Houston Astros 7-4 Tuesday in the opener of their first-round NL playoff series.
Jones homered on Wagner's first pitch, right after an error by Houston shortstop Julio Lugo on a grounder that could've ended the inning with the score tied at 3.
It was the seventh straight blown save in the playoffs for the Astros, who have never won a playoff series. Houston was eliminated by the Braves in 1997 and again in 1999.
"We've always had good pitching and so have they, but the ball bounces our way probably a little more," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Game 2 will be this afternoon, with Tom Glavine starting for Atlanta against Dave Mlicki. Glavine is 9-0 in 11 starts in Houston since June 1991, while Mlicki, almost demoted to the bullpen two months ago, will be making his first postseason start.
Jones, who was 0-for-8 with six strikeouts lifetime against Wagner, capped a four-run rally in the eighth by hitting the first pitch from the hard-throwing left-hander barely over the high wall in left field.
"He rushes it up there pretty good," Jones said. "Fortunately, I was able to get a good part of the bat on it and eek it out. He's a guy who serves it up there and says, 'Here it is, hit it."'
John Smoltz, making his postseason debut as a full-time closer, pitched two innings for the save. He gave up Vinny Castilla's leadoff homer in the ninth.
Rudy Seanez, who threw the seventh, got his first playoff win.
Greg Maddux, who ended the season in a seven-game winless streak, his longest since 1991, allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits in six innings.
The Braves' last postseason win came in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS against the New York Mets.