Braves rally to deny Brewers in 11th
Thorman's game-tying homer sets up Teixeira's walk-off single
ATLANTA -- What seemed to be just another of those days that John Smoltz would dominate and then hope for a win quickly evolved into one in which the unexpected took center stage and allowed Scott Thorman to prove he didn't just fall off the face of the earth after Mark Teixeira's arrival.
It was Teixeira's RBI single off Brian Shouse that allowed the Braves to rush the Turner Field infield and celebrate Saturday's 4-3, 11-inning win over the Brewers. But without the clutch extra-inning contributions of Thorman, Joey Devine and Octavio Dotel, this might have been the day that the Braves would finally let go of their remaining postseason hopes.
"It was a nice win," said Smoltz, who limited the Brewers to two runs and two hits in eight innings. "We're barely alive, but we keep winning, and we'll see what happens."
Even though they have won six of their last seven games and seven of their last nine, the Braves know that their postseason hopes rest on the type of miracle that would be considered greater than the one Thorman produced with his game-tying two-out homer off Francisco Cordero in the 10th inning.
Whether it was the fact that Thorman hadn't gone deep since July 29 or that he'd produced just nine hits in his previous 41 pinch-hit at-bats this season, it definitely didn't seem likely for Thorman to produce this type of moment off Cordero, who had surrendered just one homer in the last 59 1/3 innings he had pitched this season.
But with the first pitch he saw, Thorman, who hasn't played first base since Teixeira was acquired at the trade deadline, sent a fastball 415 feet into the right-field seats.
"That's why we sent him up there, thinking maybe he could hit one out, and sure enough, he did," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's has a tough go. Since we got Teixeira, he hasn't had to start once. That's an impossible job to have when you never get any at-bats. Doing what he did is pretty darn special."
When Smoltz kept his no-hit bid intact after retiring the first two batters of the sixth inning, it looked like he might be the one doing something special. But when his no-hitter was undone by J.J. Hardy's two-out, two-run homer in the sixth, the 40-year-old Smoltz was forced to simply enjoy another no-decision after yet another splendid effort.
"Everybody is going to forget that Smoltz even pitched," Cox said. "I thought that he might get his no-hitter today. I think he made only one bad mistake today. ... He was just awesome."
Although he has posted a 2.76 ERA while allowing three earned runs or fewer in each of his last 10 starts, Smoltz has been rewarded with just four wins during that span. While this has obviously produced frustration, Smoltz was at least able to feel some satisfaction, courtesy of the game-winner that Teixeira directed just inside the first-base bag and into right field.
Just before surrendering Teixeira's decisive single, Shouse got Chipper Jones to produce a potential double-play grounder that Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks botched.
"It seems like we've come up on the short end of lot of those," said Teixeira, whose hit improved the Braves' dismal record in one-run games to 18-24. "We fought back, and Thor got the huge homer and we got the win."
Through the first nine innings, the only offensive damage the Braves produced came courtesy of Jones, who hit a first-inning sacrifice fly and third-inning solo homer off Yovani Gallardo, who entered the game having thrown 21 consecutive scoreless innings.
"It was a well-pitched game, and thankfully, we took advantage of that last miscue they made in that last inning and we came away with the win," said Smoltz, who provided a dominant effort while feeling the effects of a cranky right shoulder that produced enough discomfort to briefly send him into a crouched position after ending the seventh inning with a strikeout of Geoff Jenkins.
When Corey Hart began the 10th inning with just the second homer Peter Moylan has allowed in his past 47 appearances, things looked bleak for the Braves. Things got worse when Moylan surrendered consecutive one-out singles. But Royce Ring registered a strikeout when Craig Counsell fouled three straight bunt attempts, and then Dotel, who was making his first appearance since Aug. 7, ended the inning with a strikeout of Weeks.
That 10th-inning suspense was trumped one inning later, when, with the bases loaded, Damian Miller worked a 3-0 count against Devine. But the right-handed reliever, perhaps best remembered for surrendering grand slams in his first two career appearances, got Miller to hit a lazy popup to Teixeira at first base.
"That shows a lot of poise, for a rookie to go out and get out of a bases-loaded jam like that," Teixeira said in reference to Devine, who was credited with his first career win.
Much has changed for the Braves in the past week -- two of their one-run victories have come in the past six games. But, unfortunately, this run they've been seeking for a few months may have simply come too late.
"Until somebody tells us we're mathematically eliminated, which I don't think we are yet, we're going to keep fighting," Teixeira said. "We're going to hope for some miracles."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.