The last homestand for Bobby Cox in his long career did not go without sweat and anxiety. The Atlanta Braves lost the first two games a combined 18-5. The San Diego Padres won the first two games of their series with the San Francisco Giants to pull within one game of the Giants in the NL West and into a tie with the Braves for the National League Wild Card.
The Braves entered today’s game with a must-win mentality. They knew if they won the game, they could be in the playoffs. If they lost, they would have to hope that San Francisco beat the Padres.
The game started like the first two games of the series with the bats extremely quiet. Tim Hudson pitched for Atlanta and was cruising through the first two innings until the third when he hit Carlos Ruiz with one out. John Mayberry pinch hit for Cole Hamels and hit a two-run homer to take a 2-0 lead. The Braves answered with a RBI triple by Jason Heyward in the bottom of the third.
They took the lead in the bottom of the 4th inning with RBI singles by Brooks Conrad and Hudson. Infante extended the lead with a two-run triple. They kept piling on in the 5th inning with a solo home run by Derrek Lee and another RBI single by Conrad.
The Phillies kept coming back as they got another home run off Hudson by Jason Werth to make it 8-4. They also pushed the Braves for 3 more runs in the bottom of the 8th inning as Infante missed a grounder at third base. Wagner relieved Jonny Venters and gave up an RBI single and a two-run double to cut the lead to 8-7. Wagner struck out the final four hitters of the game to earn his 37th save and probably the final regular season save of his career.
Now the Braves have put the pressure on the Padres and Giants in San Francisco. The scenario that the Braves are hoping for is clear: the Giants beat the Padres to win the NL West. If the Giants win, the Braves win the Wild Card and the Padres go home. The Braves would then play in San Francisco on Thursday.
If the Padres win, they will play San Francisco tomorrow in San Diego for a 1 game playoff to decide the division winner. The loser of that game would then travel to Atlanta to play the Brave for a 1 game playoff to determine the Wild Card winner.
Needless to say, the Braves are rooting for the Giants this afternoon.