Work in Sports
Three and out
Braves make earliest postseason exit during 10-year run
ATLANTA (AP) -- The so-called team of the '90s sure doesn't look like the team of the '00s.
The Atlanta Braves made their record ninth consecutive playoff appearance a short one, losing to St. Louis 7-1 Saturday as the Cardinals completed a three-game sweep of the defending NL champions.
"We didn't make any of the games real close," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We did not particularly hit well or pitch very well the entire series, and that is unlike what we have done in the past."
After winning the NL East, Atlanta was eliminated in the division series for the first time since the three-tiered postseason began in 1995.
"We had a terrific year, winning the division," Cox said. "We are disappointed we didn't win this series."
"You can't blame it on any one thing," Millwood said. "We didn't pitch very well. We didn't score enough runs."
He gave up a first inning solo homer to Fernando Vina and a two-run drive in the third to Jim Edmonds, and the Cardinals didn't need much else.
The heralded Atlanta pitching staff, missing its best pressure pitcher in the injured John Smoltz, had a 7.92 ERA against the Cardinals.
"Getting Smoltz back will be a be a big bonus," Millwood said, looking ahead to 2001. "Losing him was probably the biggest blow."
Atlanta hit just .189 in the three games (18-for-95). The Braves have lost seven straight postseason games, including last year's World Series sweep by the New York Yankees, scoring 19 runs and hitting .196.
Although elimination came Saturday at Turner Field, the Braves' slide began in the final week of the regular season, which included a crushing 10-5 loss to Colorado in the finale.
Leading 5-3 with two outs in the ninth inning, Chipper Jones failed to come up with what should have been a game-ending grounder, setting up a three-run homer by Todd Helton on an 0-2 pitch from John Rocker.
If Atlanta would have held on, the Braves would have opened the playoffs at Turner Field rather than Busch Stadium.
"I don't know if having the home field would have been much of an advantage," Jones said. "I don't think it would have mattered as well as they were playing and as bad as we were playing."
"You never know," Cox said. "We would have loved to have opened up at home. We didn't, but if we played exactly the same way we did, the outcome would not have been any different."