HOUSTON (AP) -Houston's season finale belonged to
The 39-year-old catcher hit a two-run homer in his final game with the team and the Astros finished with a 3-1 win over the
Ausmus caught a franchise-record 1,249 games in 10 seasons. A free agent, Ausmus has said he will retire if he can't sign
with a team based closer to his home in San Diego.
After a pre-game ceremony, Ausmus added one more highlight in his first at-bat.
doubled in the third inning for Houston's first hit off
(3-4) and Ausmus drove the next pitch into the left-field porch, his third homer of the season and first since Aug. 24.
''The home run is icing on the cake,'' Ausmus said. ''Today ranks up there as one of the days I'll remember the rest of my
(9-7) struck out six in seven strong innings and
shut out the Braves in the ninth to tie a franchise record with his 44th save.
saved 44 games for Houston in 2003.
secured his first NL batting title, walking in his only at-bat. Jones hit a career-high .364 to edge
and become the NL's first switch-hitting batting champion since
won in his 1991 MVP season for Atlanta.
''It's a tremendous feather in the cap, from an individual standpoint,'' Jones said.
It was one of the only bright spots this season for the Braves, who finished 72-90 - their worst record since going 65-97
in 1990. The next year, Atlanta began its run of 14 consecutive division titles.
''We've got a good handle on what we've got and what we need,'' said manager
Before the game, the Astros played a tongue-in-cheek video tribute to Ausmus on the scoreboard, with playful jabs from former
and current players
Owner Drayton McLane presented Ausmus with a red surfboard with an Astros logo before Ausmus' daughters, 10-year-old Sophie
and 9-year-old Abigail, threw out the ceremonial first pitches.
''The end of the video, I was as emotional as I get,'' Ausmus said. ''I smiled.''
Hampton played for the Astros from 1994-99, including two seasons with Ausmus. The two remain close friends, so Ausmus knew
what was coming when they faced each other for the first time Sunday.
''I was banking on him giving me a courtesy, first-pitch fastball,'' Ausmus said. ''I guess I guessed right.''
Hampton struck out Ausmus in the fifth.
''We've got a pretty good friendship,'' Hampton said. ''He told me the last at-bat is the one everyone remembers. I made him
look stupid on his last at-bat.''
had started pulling his starters in the top of the fifth. Before the Braves batted,
at shortstop and
came in for Berkman at first base.
Berkman went down the line to embrace Ausmus before leaving the field to a standing ovation. Berkman finished with a .312
average, his fourth season over .300. He'll be one of the veterans expected to bring leadership next year with Ausmus leaving.
''It's sad and it probably won't sink in until next year when he's not there,'' Berkman said. ''He's such a personality and
such a presence in the clubhouse. He'll be missed.''
Maysonet made a throwing error on
's grounder in the fifth and the Braves shortstop went to second. He advanced on Rodriguez's balk and came home on
's groundout to make it 2-1.
beat out an infield hit in the Houston fifth.
pinch-ran, stole second and went to third when Miller's throw skipped into center field. Rodriguez, a .103 hitter, singled
to center to get his first RBI of the season and fifth of his career.
Ausmus took the field for the sixth, but J.R. Towles came out to replace him. Ausmus hoisted his helmet to acknowledge a long
ovation as he walked off, then made a curtain call before disappearing into the dugout for the last time in a Houston uniform. ''I
was very touched,'' Ausmus said. ''The video was hilarious, payback for all the barbs I've been throwing around this locker
room for years. I really enjoyed it.''
replaced Rodriguez for the eighth. He gave up a single to
, but retired the next three batters to secure his 22nd scoreless outing in 24 appearances since Houston acquired him from
New York Yankees
on July 30.
Valverde gave up a single to
and walked Jones in the ninth, but
popped out for the final out of the season.
Notes: Ausmus ranks ninth all-time in games caught (1,887). ... Johnson recorded hits in 24 of 25 games in September. He had
a 22-game hitting streak snapped on Friday. ... Houston went 42-24 after the All-Star break.