Braves make earliest exit of their nine straight postseason appearances

Saturday, October 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

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.

Even with Andres Galarraga and Javy Lopez returning from injuries that caused them to miss the 1999 postseason, the Braves failed to make the NLCS for the first time since 1990.

Atlanta was eliminated in the division series for the first time since the three-tiered postseason began in 1995.

After watching Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine get pounded in the first two games, Kevin Millwood did only slightly better, giving up four runs, four hits and three walks in 4 2-3 innings.

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.

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.

The Braves' clubhouse that day was solemn, with players speaking in whispers. The disappointed was a sign of things to come.