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NLCS berth on the line
10/10/2004 8:10 PM ET
HOUSTON -- The Braves ended one streak on Sunday, now they will look to snap another on Monday at Turner Field.

By rallying to a 6-5 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park, the Braves forced a decisive fifth game in the best-of-five Division Series.

Refusing to lose, the Braves ended the Astros' 19-game home winning streak on Sunday, rallying back from a 5-2 deficit after five innings.

"Without a couple of hits and a couple of key plays, we'd be packing up right now," said first baseman Adam LaRoche, whose three-run homer in the sixth inning tied the game at 5.

The mood of the Braves' clubhouse following Game 4 was one of relief, joy and reserved optimism.

Winners of 13 straight division titles, the Braves have been unceremoniously bounced from postseason play the past four seasons at Turner Field. They are also 3-12 in their past 15 playoff games at The Ted.

They're tired of seeing the opposition celebrate on their diamond. With new life in the Division Series, the Braves are hopeful of ending their home-field misery.

"We just showed you all the determination in the world," Chipper Jones said after Sunday's three-hour, 24-minute tussle. "We'll roll the dice and see what happens tomorrow. I don't know what to say. We're hungry.

   Chipper Jones  /   3B
Born: 04/24/72
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

"We get to go back home. It all comes down to one game. We'll battle it out and see what happens."

It's been a season on the brink for the Braves. They've scratched and clawed, repeatedly rallying despite astronomical odds.

The Astros seemed in command on Sunday, claiming a three-run lead with Roger Clemens on the mound. But LaRoche's three-run blast off Chad Qualls in the sixth provided new life.

"It could fall on anybody's lap tomorrow," LaRoche said. "I am very fortunate to be able to get up in the position I did and get the job done. It could fall into anybody's lap tomorrow. Everybody has to be ready to go, not celebrate now. We hope to tomorrow. You're always excited after a home run. I'd like to think it gave everybody a little push to know, 'Hey, we tied it up, and this is our game.' "

J.D. Drew's RBI single in the ninth plated the go-ahead run, and John Smoltz worked out of a jam in the bottom of the inning by getting Jeff Kent to bounce into a double play with runners on the corners.

"There is a tremendous amount of motivation. We didn't want to end it the way we've been playing," Smoltz said. "We've been fighting too hard and leaving too many chances to score runs, and win a game. Today, hopefully, will build into a tremendous momentum tomorrow."

   John Smoltz  /   P
Born: 05/15/67
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

In his distinguished Braves career, Smoltz has enjoyed his share of success. Sunday was especially special because this team wasn't predicted to reach the playoffs.

"For the team, I think it ranks as one of our team's biggest wins," Smoltz said. "I'm taking our team into consideration. I think there have been years past, for instance, the Yankees keep doing it, and they do it every year. But you look at their team and you feel like they're going to do it. They've got great players, clutch players and do the things you have to do. This team is learning how to do that with some young players who've never been in position to do that. This is, I think, as big a win, over the last five years, as we've had."

Unlike other teams during the Braves' remarkable run of 13 straight division titles, this team has had to pull together because there isn't the star power of the past. Gone are Greg Maddux, Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez.

"We had so many studs, we knew somebody was going to do it," Smoltz said of delivering in the clutch.

There wasn't the collective sense there is now.

"This team has a different mind-set," Smoltz said.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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