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Busy Braves bullpen fades in finale
10/12/2004 1:30 AM ET
ATLANTA -- Injuries to the starting staff helped create a heavy workload for the Braves' bullpen.

But reliever Chris Reitsma isn't making any excuses for a seventh-inning onslaught that broke Game 5 open and sent the Astros soaring into the National League Championship Series.

In Monday's decisive fifth game of the Division Series, the Astros scored five runs in the seventh inning and cruised to a 12-3 victory at Turner Field. The win advances Houston to the NLCS against St. Louis.

Reitsma entered with the Braves still in striking distance, down 5-2.

"It comes down to execution," the right-hander said. "It doesn't matter if everybody is tired this time of year. It's not a matter of being overworked. It's a matter of not executing what I needed to. Obviously, I'm very disappointed. I'm disappointed in myself. It could have been a lot better."

The Astros had a runner on second with two outs, and Craig Biggio was looking at a 1-2 count when he singled to right off Reitsma.

The ball dropped in front of right fielder J.D. Drew, whose throw home wasn't handled by catcher Johnny Estrada. When the dust cleared, Biggio was on third because of Drew's error, and the Astros were just warming up.

Carlos Beltran, who had four hits, two homers and five RBIs in the game, followed with a run-scoring single. Jeff Bagwell belted a two-run homer and Reistma's night was over. The Astros added another run on Lance Berkman's double, followed by Jeff Kent's single off Tom Martin.

In all, the Astros strung together five straight hits with two outs.

To Reitsma, it came back to the 1-2 fastball that was just up to Biggio.

   Chris Reitsma  /   P
Born: 12/31/77
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"I had two outs with two strikes," Reitsma said. "There is no way it should have snowballed like that. I guess the word for it is really disappointing. The pitch was away, but up a hair, and he flared it. If it is up five feet further, J.D. catches it and we wouldn't be standing here, talking about this."

The Braves' bullpen was put in a tough spot because Mike Hampton (torn left knee cartilage), Jaret Wright (two battered legs) and John Thomson (strained left oblique) have been hobbled.

In a Game 4 win on Sunday, Atlanta's bullpen tossed six scoreless innings at Minute Maid Park. A night later, the relievers gave up eight runs on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Overall in the series, Braves relievers tossed 26 innings, compared to just 20 for the starters.

"It is a lot of innings to pitch in a four or five game series," said closer John Smoltz, who wasn't used with the game out of hand. "But nobody that threw today or threw this weekend is going to make an excuse. We just didn't make two-out pitches. We had the chance to make this an incredible, exciting game, if you look at the way the game was. It was 3-2 and we didn't get the two-out pitches. Their center fielder [Beltran] beat us. The options weren't many as far as the guys who were available."

As disappointing as Monday's loss was, the Braves closed out an otherwise successful season. They won their 13th straight division title, and a young squad showed tremendous resolve to reach the postseason when few expected it.

"Obviously, we accomplished quite a bit this year, and it's a great accomplishment to get to the postseason," Reitsma said. "But I don't think that is going to sink in until the offseason. It's a pretty bitter feeling right now. I feel very disappointed. I feel like we matched up with them. I felt we had the better team. It was a matter of poor execution when we needed it."

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

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