Braves lock up 14th straight division title
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Another year, another division title for manager
hit a pair of home runs and
pitched six effective innings as the Braves locked up their 14th consecutive division crown with a 12-3 triumph over the
After winning the National League West Division from 1991-93, Atlanta moved to the NL East, which it has dominated since 1995.
"It'll never be done again in baseball history," said Braves pitcher
, the only member of all 14 division winners. "I don't think there's one thing you can say except
"I think I was almost seven years old (when the Braves first won a division crown)," said rookie right fielder
, who grew up a Braves fan. "I was in first grade. To be a part of (this celebration) is truly amazing."
The Braves officially clinched the division before the start of the sixth inning when Philadelphia dropped a 3-2 decision to the
New York Mets
. Hudson followed by giving up a two-run double to rookie
, cutting the Rockies' deficit to 7-3.
Giles added some insurance in the bottom of the frame with his second blast of the game, a two-run homer over the center field fence, and rookie
delivered a bases-clearing double to make it 12-3.
Cox replaced virtually his entire starting lineup before the seventh, leaving second-year first baseman
as the only non-rookie on the field when
recorded the final out in the ninth. Atlanta has 14 rookies on the current roster, four of whom are from the Atlanta area.
"It was a good tribute to the veterans taking them out once we clinched," Braves third baseman
said. "Best of all was that
closed it out. He could be our closer in the future."
Early in the season, another postseason appearance did not seem likely as Atlanta was 5 1/2 games behind Washington on June 15 and was dealing with injuries to Jones and starters
However, with the help of 17 rookies, pitcher
and MVP candidate
, the Braves will once again be playing in early October.
"It's pretty special," Cox said. "We came a long way in order to do this. The rookies came a long way. They're good. They helped us win."
"We always believed we would just do whatever it took this year,"
said. "Opening day, I was a little skeptical. That's game one of 162. The veterans knew this is a marathon, not a sprint."
The Braves scored a run in each of the first three innings off Rockies starter
(6-2), with Giles' solo shot in the third pushing the lead to 3-0.
's RBI single in the fourth drew Colorado within two, Atlanta scored four in the fifth to break open the game.
Hudson (14-9) yielded three runs and four hits to improve to 6-2 in his last nine starts.
"It's special," Hudson said of pitching in the clincher, which he also did with Oakland in 1999 and 2002. "I knew coming in, we're going to clinch it. I took this as if it was a playoff game. (I wanted) to set the tone and pitch this team to a win."
Cook was hammered for seven runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings en route to his first loss since July 30.
"We were never in the game from the get-go," Cook said. "You never want to be the person who puts the other team in the playoffs."
LaRoche also homered for Atlanta, which improved to 5-3 in their final nine-game homestand of the regular season.