ATLANTA -- The Braves' three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning of Friday night's 11-5 loss to the Phillies was little more than cosmetic as far as the result of the game, and will probably mean little to historians.

For J.C. Boscan and his family, that rally is a moment that will live on forever.

The magnitude of that entire ninth inning can only be understood if you understand the career of the Maracaibo, Venezuela, native. He was originally signed by Atlanta as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 1996. Some 14 years and three Minor League contracts later, the 31-year-old catcher, whose contract had been purchased by Atlanta from Triple-A Gwinnett on Sept. 1, had still never set foot on the field of a Major League stadium in a game that counted.

That changed Friday night.

"I was in the bullpen, and after the eighth inning was over, they called to the bullpen and told me to come down from the bullpen," Boscan said. "I didn't know what I was going to do. So when I got there, they told me I was catching the ninth."

Five minutes later, in front of his wife, mother and father and brother and sister, he was putting down signals in the catcher's box at Turner Field for Mike Minor, whom he had caught earlier in the season at Gwinnett.

"Five minutes, I think it was good," Boscan said. "I didn't want it to be longer. I just wanted to get in the game for the first time."

In the bottom half of the ninth, with two outs and runners at first and third, Boscan stepped into the right-handed batter's box to face Phillies reliever Mike Zagurski.

After a big swing on the first pitch, he worked the count full, then drew a walk on a close payoff pitch. Upon reaching first base, he just took a deep breath and took in the moment.

"Standing at first base and watching a couple of pitches and then [Derrek Lee] hit that ball in the gap," Boscan said. "I was running the bases, it was pretty amazing."

Boscan raced all the way home from first base on Lee's three-run double to right-center field. The inning would end two batters later, but so did Boscan's quest to complete a life-long dream of playing in the Majors, a dream that he several times thought might never come true.

"It's a hard game," he said. "Especially when the years keep coming, keep coming. Going back to Venezuela after the season was over ... almost every year after I became a free agent, it was getting harder and harder.

"The good thing was that at the same time I thought it was getting harder and harder, I said, 'I have to work harder and more to keep me in this game as long as I can.' Because I wanted to complete my dream of getting to the big leagues."

Boscan proved that putting in all that hard work eventually will pay off. He also proved there is no such thing as a meaningless run.

Saito gets rust out of the way in loss

ATLANTA -- Good news is where you find it.

For the Braves, Saturday afternoon's ninth-inning appearance by right-handed setup man Takashi Saito is mixed.

The good news was that Saito, who pitched for the first time since Sept. 17, threw without pain.

The bad news was he was touched up for two runs on two hits while issuing three walks in one-third of an inning during Atlanta's 7-0 loss to Philadelphia.

"We had to find out where the rust was," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "His arm felt great, but he was rusty and I wanted to go ahead and find out tonight."

The Braves found out the hard way, but now know that Saito's ailing right shoulder appears mended.

"It's been a while, but I haven't had any trouble with my shoulder," said Saito. "It's just that I couldn't make the adjustment on the mound."

That inability to adjust showed in the uncharacteristically wild outing.

Saito hadn't allowed a run in his previous 16 appearances, going back to July 30, a stretch covering 15 2/3 innings, and he had shown impeccable control, having walked only 14 batters all season, in 55 appearances covering 53 2/3 innings. He hadn't allowed more than two walks in an appearance all season, and only allowed as many as two in an inning since June 26.

With the rust out of the way, Saito said he would be available for a possible play-in game either Monday or Tuesday, and definitely would be ready should the Braves reach the National League Division Series.

"I think he would be good [for postseason]," said Cox. "Maybe not [Sunday], but if we have a playoff game, he should be good."

"Whenever I get called I'll be ready," Saito said.