07/07/08 12:03 AM ET
Long day ends in Braves' favor
Teixeira delivers game-winner in 17th inning to beat Astros
By Ryan Lavner / MLB.com
Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira hit a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 17th inning to cap the longest game played at Turner Field with a 7-6 win over the Astros on Sunday.
"If we had to work this hard to win one, man, I don't know if we have enough gas in the tank this year," said Chipper Jones, who went 3-for-5 with a homer, a triple and four RBIs.
The Braves appeared destined for yet another series loss when they trailed, 6-4, in the eighth inning, but Yunel Escobar hit a two-out, two-run single to right field off Astros closer Jose Valverde to tie the game.
What ensued was nothing short of a chess match. Atlanta used six relievers and held Houston without a run for the final 11 innings of the game. Over that span, the Braves' bullpen allowed just seven hits and struck out nine.
"I can't speak enough about what our pitching staff did today," catcher Brian McCann said. "To see them grinding out there like that, it's something special."
After pitching two scoreless innings on Saturday night, Buddy Carlyle was pressed into duty again on Sunday. He pitched three scoreless frames, extending his scoreless innings streak to 14 2/3.
"His legs were probably jelly out there the last inning," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who was ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Everitt in the fifth inning for arguing.
After a one-hour and 50-minute rain delay and more than five hours of baseball, everyone was exhausted after this contest. But the fact that Atlanta won, which it hasn't done recently, made this win that much more satisfying.
The Braves won their first series since taking two of three from the Mariners, the worst team in the Majors, on June 20-22. Prior to Sunday, they had dropped three consecutive series and six of their past seven games overall.
"It was a big sigh of relief," Teixeira said. "We have to continue to win series if we're going to get back in this, so this was a good start."
Gregor Blanco led off the 17th inning with a single up the middle, and he advanced to second when Escobar bunted for a base hit. Jones singled to right to bring up Teixeira, who had already driven in two runs.
Looking for something up in the strike zone, Teixeira hit a hanging slider from Astros lefty reliever Tim Byrdak off the bottom of the left-center-field wall for the walk-off single.
"We held as good as we possibly could, and we finally got a big, clutch hit," Cox said.
The excitement was tempered a bit after the game when the Braves learned that they needed to place three players on the 15-day disabled list.
Reliever Jeff Bennett partially dislocated his right shoulder throwing to first base during Saturday's 6-1 loss; Omar Infante reaggravated his strained right groin after doubling in the second inning Sunday; and reliever Manny Acosta, who pitched three scoreless innings on Sunday, strained his right hamstring while attempting to beat out a throw from second base in the 16th inning.
Cox said the Braves would likely recall two pitchers and one position player to fill out the roster.
Acosta was instrumental in wriggling out of a jam in the 15th, when the Astros had put runners on second and third with one out. With the Braves' infield drawn in, Ty Wigginton lined a ball to Escobar at shortstop. Escobar made an acrobatic catch to record the second out, and after an intentional walk to Miguel Tejada, Acosta got pinch-hitter Lance Berkman to fly out to left field to end the threat.
"He's as good of a shortstop as you could possibly want on a Major League team," Cox said of Escobar, who also went 4-for-9.
Long before the game was decided, Braves starter Charlie Morton had pitched six innings and allowed six runs on eight hits, the most damaging a two-out grand slam by Wigginton in the third inning.
Ryan Lavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.