Braves boot playoff opener , Cards take 1-0 series lead

Tuesday, October 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Instead of picking up the ball, the Atlanta Braves are picking up losses.

First, the Braves booted away home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Then, they made three more errors Tuesday, losing the opener of their best-of-five series 7-5 to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Center fielder Andruw Jones lost Jim Edmonds' fly ball to left-center in the sun, allowing it to fall between himself and left fielder Reggie Sanders as the Cardinals' first run scored.

Third baseman Chipper Jones, whose error cost the Braves' Sunday regular-season finale _ and the home field for Games 1 and 2 _ let Ray Lankford's grounder bounce off his glove as the third run scored.

Catcher Paul Bako made a wild throw to second, allowing Placido Polanco to advance all the way to third after a two-run single _ which included an Andruw Jones throw home that bounced wildly off the mound and past home plate.

And all that was in the first inning.

In the eighth, reliever John Rocker threw away a pickoff to first base for yet another error.

Not that the offense was much better.

Rafael Furcal led off game with a single, then was caught stealing by Carlos Hernandez _ playing only because Mike Matheny sliced a hand with a knife last Friday, ending his season. During the regular season with the Cardinals, Hernandez threw out just seven of 25 runners attempting to steal.

The caught stealing turned out to important. Andruw Jones and Andres Galarraga walked later in the inning, but were stranded.

Twice, the Braves had two on and no outs, then failed to score. The defending NL champions had runners in every inning except the eight but were just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Against rookie Britt Reames in the seventh, Atlanta loaded the bases with one out, but Sanders popped out and pinch-hitter Bobby Bonilla grounded out.

In 1996, the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead against the Braves in the best-of-seven NL championship series, then were swept three straight. Once again, Atlanta is going to have to come back.