Braves make it back to postseason in dramatic style

The Braves made it back to the playoffs and Bobby Cox was at the center of the celebration.

The Braves made it back to the playoffs and Bobby Cox was at the center of the celebration.

On the final day of the regular season in potentially the final game of manager Bobby Cox’s career, the Braves went almost by script. They kept us guessing. They teased. They kept hearts pounding like bongo drums.

“Dramastics,” Matt Diaz cracked with a malaprop.

What?

“We’re big on dramastics, as George W. would say,” he said.

The Braves had a magic number of two on Friday to clinch a wild card berth. The number was still two on Sunday, only it didn’t seem nearly as magical.

They lost two games to Philadelphia by a combined score of 18-5. In the series finale, they fielded a lineup that included only two carryovers from opening day. They surprisingly took an 8-2 lead over the Phillies Sunday. More surprisingly, they almost blew it.

Dramastics. Bobby Cox is 69. That doesn’t take into account that he probably has aged 10 years in the last six months.

But it was worth waiting for. In game No. 162, the Braves clinched the National League wild card berth. They hung on to defeat the Phillies 8-7 at Turner Field and then hung around a few hours to watch San Diego fall to San Francisco, 3-0.

Several hundred fans who had hung around to watch the Padres and Giants on the center field screen while chanting and doing the tomahawk chop, erupted. So did the clubhouse. Beer and champagne was sprayed in every corner and on everything that moved.

Brooks Conrad, left, and Tim Hudson scored on a fourth-inning triple by Omar Infante. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

Brooks Conrad, left, and Tim Hudson scored on a fourth-inning triple by Omar Infante, making it 5-2. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

Cox was in the middle of it. He smiled while watching his players. He hugged players and coaches and team officials. He laughed when admitting that while watching the Padres’ game on TV: “I was yelling at the umpire on every pitch.”

And then this: “[It would’ve been] a 3,000-mile ejection.”

Drink it up. Cox is still here. The Braves are still here. After injuries and fizzles and 109 lineups and the losses of Chipper Jones and Martin Prado and too many others along the way to remember, Atlanta is

Billy Wagner started step one of Sunday's celebration after closing out the win. Then the Braves waited.

Billy Wagner started step one of Sunday's celebration after closing out the win. Then the Braves waited. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

back in the postseason for the first time since 2005.

It’s the first time the Braves have made it as a wild card. But the celebration looked and smelled the same after those division-, pennant- and World Series-clinching moments.

The only thing that made it more special was that it came in Cox’s final season. His career will not end after 162 games.

After the clubhouse party subsided, the players coaxed their manager back onto the field. Some players hoisted Cox onto their shoulders. They carried him out in front of the dugout, as some 500 fans who hung around to chant and do the Tomahawk Chop while watching the Giants-Padres game on the center field screen went nuts.

Then the entire team of players encircled Cox and drenched him with champagne and beer. He never stunk so good.

“I’m so proud of this team — you have no idea,” he said.

We do, of course. Because Cox did the same thing after the 2,504th win of his career as he did after the first: He credited his players.

They couldn’t make it easy on themselves. An 8-2 lead after six innings turned into an 8-7. The Braves and comfort haven’t intersected all season, so why start now?

“This is essentially what we’ve done all year – wait around until it was late,” pitcher Tim Hudson said.

Cox, hoping for improved defense, shifted Brooks Conrad to second and Omar Infante to third. They both committed errors. But at least both contributed offensively. A team that had scored only 29 runs in the last 11 games (2.64) suddenly turned into the ’27 Yankees. They had a four-run fourth inning that included a game-tying RBI single by Conrad, a go-ahead RBI hit by Hudson and a two-run triple by Infante.

Hudson allowed only two hits in seven innings, but both were two-run homers, the second by Jayson Werth in the seventh to make it 8-4. In the eighth, Infante allowed Mike Sweeney’s two-out grounder to skip between his legs, opening the door to the Phillies’ three-run inning. Closer Billy Wagner allowed the two-run double by Ben Francisco that made it 8-7.

But Wagner closed it out in the ninth, battling his own thoughts of his career ending Sunday.

Quoting: “Don’t think that didn’t go through my mind: ‘Screw this up. Go home. Always be a goat.’”

Didn’t happen. Everybody was a hero Sunday. We just weren’t sure until the end.

♦♦♦

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

106 comments Add your comment

greg norton facts

October 3rd, 2010
8:42 pm

greg norton facts

October 3rd, 2010
8:42 pm

yes!! champagne for eveyone!!!!

Ben

October 3rd, 2010
8:44 pm

Feeanch

October 3rd, 2010
8:44 pm

Surely not…

Nite Owl

October 3rd, 2010
8:46 pm

As a life-long Braves fan, let me just say that this is one of the scrappiest, gutsiest teams I’ve ever seen. They gave their all, and I just hope they have something left for the playoffs.

Why not mess around and win the whole thing? No pressure, eh? And with Hudson, Hanson, Lowe, and our bullpen, we have a puncher’s chance.

This is going to be like 1991, just trying to scratch out a run or two and win 1-0 or 2-1. I can’t wait.

Go Braves!!!

Lacey

October 3rd, 2010
8:50 pm

Couldn’t be happy for Bobby’s Braves!!!! Now go out to San Francisco and beat them!!!!! Way to go Braves!!!!!

Lewis Grizzard's Ghost

October 3rd, 2010
8:51 pm

Wasn’t that fun, Jeff … seems like old times, eh? Somebody’s gotta win it all, why not us?

Furman Bitcher

October 3rd, 2010
8:54 pm

as thet say “anything can happen” in a 5 game series

Tyler Langmeyer

October 3rd, 2010
8:54 pm

Hmm…let’s see how many of those “fans” who said we were finished show up tonight.

Furman Bitcher

October 3rd, 2010
8:55 pm

Guilty as charged

AlabamaRamblinwreck

October 3rd, 2010
8:55 pm

I agree, nite owl. We have a puncher’s chance…would be great to see Derrick Lee and Jason Heyward both get really, really hot during the playoffs. Sprinkle in a little McCann and some surprises, with decent pitching anything is possible.

Go Braves.

Reid Adair

October 3rd, 2010
8:56 pm

A tremendous effort by Bobby Cox and this roster – not just with the win today but to go 91-71 for the regular season. Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, they worked their tails off and made the playoffs.

Clarence

October 3rd, 2010
8:58 pm

Was the Braves win today a big one?

Alaska Braves Fan

October 3rd, 2010
9:03 pm

You’re absolutely right, AlabamaRamblinwreck! Anything is possible in the post season. It’s a new season! Win three of five, then four of seven, and next thing you know, you’re in the Series!

Yahoo! How cool would that be?

ABF

Skeezix

October 3rd, 2010
9:03 pm

Congratulations to Bobby Cox and the Braves! Finally, again, the Braves are in the postseason. Limping and wounded, but still playing baseball. Only the Master, Bobby Cox, could manage this collection of has beens, rejects, utility players, and rookies to a playoff berth.

P.S. That series really showed how good the Phillies are. The Phils have no weaknesses.

TTTT-Thumbody Thed Thats Thupid!

October 3rd, 2010
9:05 pm

Hopefully these 3 days off will give Venters time to get his wind back. He has been way off lately and BC kept going to him instead of the “young horse” Kimbrel who has been lights out. BC almost blew it by doing that. Believe Kimbrel could be Cox’s “secret stealth weapon” if he would just use him in the right places.

playmeortrademe

October 3rd, 2010
9:07 pm

Fighting chance indeed. playoff vet Lowe vs Lincecum in his first ever postseason start. Hudson vs. Matt Cain in game 2. I like the chances of taking one game and coming home tied 1-1 with Hanson, Lowe, and Hudson in game 5 if needed. Bullpen will get a much needed break and If the starters can get through 7 I think you set it up with Kimbrel/Wagner or Moylan/Wags if Kimbrel isn’t eligible for some reason.

Matt

October 3rd, 2010
9:08 pm

Rotation Lowe,Hanson,Huddy

Lineup needs to be
1b Lee 2b Brooks 3b Glaus SS Omar C Mac LF Freeman CF Mclouth RF Heyward

Let Troy and Freddy take reps in pratice this week at 3B and LF and the lineup is already better.

TTTT-Thumbody Thed Thats Thupid!

October 3rd, 2010
9:09 pm

Skeezix, believe the Phils do have one weakness. It’s their bullpen. It showed today as they went to them early to rest the starters. If you can ever get the lead and get into their BP, you can beat the Phils. Same with the Yankees if it ever gets that far. BTW, the young catcher, Posey, for the Giants is a GA boy, from Leesburg, and he will probably beat out Heyward for Rookie of the Year.

James

October 3rd, 2010
9:10 pm

Jeff, this article was great. That game was great. Just, wow. A heart attack of a season from a team that, at the very least, has tons of heart.

Mark in Woodstock

October 3rd, 2010
9:10 pm

Congrats to Bobby and team for a great hard fought playoff berth. It’s incredible they made it dealing with all the adversity they faced.

Not Disappointed

October 3rd, 2010
9:12 pm

Jeff, you wrote a damn good article!

Congrats Bobby Cox!

Matt

October 3rd, 2010
9:12 pm

I dont think but rather know the Reds are going to upset the Phils in the NLDS. The Reds are more clutch than the phils and will hit HRs when they need them

Army Vet

October 3rd, 2010
9:13 pm

Am I the only one who thinks the braves will choke…like they always do in October?

Matt

October 3rd, 2010
9:15 pm

@ Army Vet, the Big difference in this playoff season and years past is the fact that before the Braves were expected to atleast go to the WS if not Win it. Now the Braves have nothing to lose if they dont make it out of the first round thats fine where as before it wasnt. I think the fact there is very little pressue will help them.

W.C Fields

October 3rd, 2010
9:16 pm

You people are hilarious…you barely beat the Phillies B team today…complete with a gift from Charlie Manuel in the form of Danys Baez and now you are ready to take on the world.

Ryder

October 3rd, 2010
9:18 pm

This is a testament to the grit that this team showed. They led the majors in most last at-bat wins and despite a rough September they did what was needed to make the postseason.

October baseball is a crapshoot at best, and as long as you have the following you can win in the playoffs: strong starting pitching, solid bullpen, hot hitter. The Braves have the first two already down, and need to get that third element to carry them in a short series.

Congratulations to Bobby Cox and the Braves! You deserve it.

ramblinman

October 3rd, 2010
9:19 pm

Army Vet – love your attitude pal. You’re probably not even an Army Vet at all. Don’t even think of watching any of the playoffs with a mindset like that. The Braves have done extremely well this season despite numerous injuries etc. Don’t even think about watching or listening to any of the games. Don’t need you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Grinch

October 3rd, 2010
9:19 pm

Y’all think Bobby will have Venters throw some bullpen sessions over the next couple of days to knock the rust off and make sure he stays loose?

Tyler Langmeyer

October 3rd, 2010
9:22 pm

Matt, that line up makes no sense. Freeman hasn’t played outfield before. It’s not as easy as “get out there kid and do your best”. Glaus is an old man at 3rd base. Anything not hit within 2 feet either way is trouble. He has NO range. On top of that, Troy hasn’t played a full game in a while, and I can count Freddie’s hits on one hand.

Keith

October 3rd, 2010
9:22 pm

Very fitting for a team that led the majors with 25 Last AB wins to wait till the LAST DAY and barely hold on for the win 8-7!

Could this year have been any more dramatic?

Terrible April. 9-game losing streak.

Incredibly hot May led by Troy Glaus who comes out of nowhere to lead the NL in RBI into Juneish.

Hot till the AS break ending with series wins on the road vs Mets and Phillies.

Later a 9-game winning streak.

Builds to a 7-game lead in the division.

Lead the Division for 90+ days…

Lose HOF 3rd basemen. Lose “luckiest” pitcher in Medlen. Lose our other All-star (backup) 3b. Pitching becomes inconsistent in Sept.

Played average in August and not very good in September.

Sweep the Mets, get swept by Phillies, sweep the Marlins, barely win 1 game vs the Phillies with the playoff berth on the line.

Bobby Cox for Manager of the year!!!

Army Vet

October 3rd, 2010
9:25 pm

Good point Matt…besides, a few wild card teams have won the WS!

Keith

October 3rd, 2010
9:26 pm

Jeff,

Just wanted to give you the dramatic ups and downs via the highlights of the season.

GO BRAVES! :)

I’ll be there on Sunday and Monday (hopefully there is a Monday)

playmeortrademe

October 3rd, 2010
9:27 pm

D.Lee has to be that hot hitter in the #3 spot. Everything else falls into place if he can produce. (I can’t believe I just said that…)

Although it would be nice if Gonzalez or Conrad channeled Mark Lemke over the next two weeks.

Nite Owl

October 3rd, 2010
9:32 pm

@Keith:

Great recap of the season. When you see it in black and white like that, it seems even more unbelievable.

@W.C. Fields:

You’re right, we are ready to take on the world. I’d rather be in the tournament than sitting at home watching it. Just let us in and we’ll see what happens.

James

October 3rd, 2010
9:34 pm

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Hinesley, Scott Munn, David McKinney, Craig Boehringer, Jeff Schultz and others. Jeff Schultz said: Tremendous scene, players carrying Cox on shoulders and then drenching him w/champagne. Great photo on blog. http://bit.ly/dp5MEz [...]

Army Vet

October 3rd, 2010
9:40 pm

Ramblinman….I’m a Braves fan and I tell it like it is…..history is on my side. If you don’t like what I have to say, get over it….what you think is insignificant to me. Braves will choke and will not get past the Giants. See you after the final out. Looking forward to a lively debate.

deb

October 3rd, 2010
9:43 pm

I was at the game, it was AWESOME! I was sitting next to 2 guys who flew down from Philly for yesterday and today’s game. They were great. Unlike some of the rude Philly fans who troll these blogs. We had a great time. And they couldn’t stop talking about how friendly everyone was to them as Philly fans in Braves country. You’d never see that if a Braves fan went to a Phillies game.

MitchC

October 3rd, 2010
9:49 pm

Jeff, I’m thrilled the Braves made it. I felt at the beginning of the season that the Phillies would win the East, and the Braves would get the wild card. However, I never thought it would happen in this fashion, after blowing a seven game NL East lead, a two game wild card lead with three games to go, and reaching the postseason without Chipper and Prado.

The Giants series is going to be very tough. They have excellent pitching, a great bullpen, and a fine closer. (No offense, but just so you know, the SF Giants “Fear The Beard” signs with Brian Wilson. I used to hate relievers with beards when I was younger, primarially because the Braves were so terrible in the 80s, and so many of them (Bedrosian, Sutter before he joined us, Reardon) got saves against us.

I hope it can be a good series. One would think the Giants would be heavily favored, but, as we know, in a short series, anything can happen. Look how many times during the division title streak, we went into a series favored, only to go down in the NLDS or NLCS. Hopefully, this time, the underdog Braves can rise up.

hayleydrew

October 3rd, 2010
9:50 pm

yyyaaaaayyyy!!!!! so happy to finally be back in the postseason! I don’t care if we make far or not…. I grew up on us winning (Born in ‘90, it’s all I ever knew til the last few years). I’m so excited for Bobby and the team! Whether we win or lose in the postseason, it’s like taking our place back :) Love you Bobby! You will be greatly missed and you will always be THE Braves Skipper to me :)

BRAVO Young Lad!!!

October 3rd, 2010
9:50 pm

My girlfriend and I stayed to watch the Giants win on the Big Screen at The Ted, 3 hours after the Braves had won!!!

Here is my photo of Cox being lifted up!!!

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=15222147&l=ea07e1c381&id=792765594

GO BRAVES!!!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ReidAdair, zosterma, Cheryl Hunt, Ken Ashley, Jeff Schultz and others. Jeff Schultz said: Braves make it back to postseason in dramatic style http://bit.ly/9fKh8J [...]

Dr. Phil

October 3rd, 2010
9:55 pm

It is great for Brooks Conrad that he somewhat redeemed himself after the errors on Friday and Saturday. Conrad is a good guy, and he has contributed this season. Same for Bobby, who gets another shot. Go Braves!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

October 3rd, 2010
10:00 pm

Getting a few players back would really help this team. It sure helped the Bulldogs. I hope some of the Braves get released in time for the playoffs. What? What? You mean the missing players are injured- not in jail? Oh, that changes things a lot. I suppose the whole team can leave the state and go to California? Will Venters fly the plane? Carry the bags? We are seeing the last of BobbyBall. Let’s hope his last win will be the last game of the WS. I hope Georgia gets a win soon. Being mascot is hard work and being closely associated with this team is not good for my reputation.

GT Trumpet

October 3rd, 2010
10:06 pm

Great to see the Braves back in post-season. Felt great to be there for Bobby’s last regular season game! Good luck in the playoffs Braves! We will all be watching and cheering.

BobDawg

October 3rd, 2010
10:06 pm

… My Dad in Phila is already moaning about facing the Reds….. You gotta love the fact that we face the Giants in the 1st round….

tj

October 3rd, 2010
10:09 pm

Matt the Brave

October 3rd, 2010
10:11 pm

Kimbrel’s not eligible because he was not on the 25 man roster before September 1st. Does anybody know if we can replace injured players before this series if they are on the DL?

Steve

October 3rd, 2010
10:15 pm

This is as excitng as the 1991 team. Watching the effort put out by this team all season long has been great. They have been a fun team to watch so why not carry Bobby into November. Go Braves!