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Beltran leads swarm of Killer B's
10/12/2004 1:49 AM ET
ATLANTA -- Look out, St. Louis. Here comes a swarm of Killer B's.

Craig Biggio, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman topped the lineup Monday night and slapped, slugged and smiled their way through the Astros' 12-3 win over the Braves in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

When it was over, the Astros had won their first-ever postseason series.

"It's obviously been a big story in the media, and that's fine. We hadn't gotten anywhere, and Craig and I hadn't hit," Bagwell said. "Now we hit and we've gone somewhere.

"But it's not about Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. Look at the team effort we've had this year and this series."

Look at Game 5.

Led by Beltran's record-setting performance, the Killer B's combined to go 10-for-18 with eight runs scored, three home runs and eight RBIs. For the series, the quartet hit a combined 34-for-86 (.395) with 24 runs scored, eight home runs and 21 RBIs.

For those scoring at home, the foursome accounted for 59 percent of Houston's NLDS-record 58 hits, 67 percent of the NLDS-record 36 runs and a whopping 73 percent of the NLDS-record 11 home runs.

"You look at today's game and there are a lot of heroes," said Biggio. "There are a lot of guys you can hang a star on. We earned it."

Like Beltran, the newcomer, who went 4-for-5 on Monday with five RBIs and led the group with four home runs in the series, an Astros postseason record, a .455 series batting average, nine runs scored and nine RBIs.

"You could sense that someone was going to get on a roll and do something like that," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "And the way he's played in the last two weeks, when this guy gets on a roll, he's unbelievable. He does everything. ... He's played in obscurity for the last couple of years, but this is going to put his name out and people are going to know who he is. Unfortunately, I wish we could keep him here in Houston."

Beltran's pending free agency was a topic for another night. On Monday, he was too busy wiping champagne out of his eyes.

"It's a dream come true, to have my first playoff experience and be able to come through like that," said Beltran, acquired from Kansas City in late June.

Beltran may have been a sparkplug for these Astros, but Biggio and Bagwell have been the heart and soul of the franchise for more than a decade.

Killer B's sting Braves
The 36 runs the Astros scored in the series against the Braves was an NLDS record, eclipsing the 27 the Braves scored in 1995. And a big reason was the performance of the Nos. 1-4 hitters in the lineup, collectively known as the Killer B's.
Biggio 20 5 8 2 1 4 .400
Beltran 22 9 10 2 4 9 .455
Bagwell 22 5 7 2 2 5 .318
Berkman 22 5 9 1 1 3 .409
TOTALS 86 24 34 7 8 21 .395
"I've said many times they've been the heartbeat of this team, and they have been since they've been here," said Astros owner Drayton McLane. "We've had great players to come in here, with Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens and Carlos. But [Bagwell and Biggio] are still who people look at. It was so important that they played a key role."

In postseasons past, the original Killer B's struggled. They combined for 15 hits in 100 at-bats in four postseason one-and-outs from 1997-2001.

They were there in 1997, when Houston won its first division title in 11 years, only to be swept in three games by the Braves.

They were there in 1998, when Houston won a franchise-best 102 regular-season games but fell to the World Series-bound San Diego Padres in four.

And 1999, when the Astros lost the Division Series to the Braves. And 2001, when the Astros lost the Division Series to -- you guessed it -- the Braves.

"This is a new year, right here," Biggio said. "We haven't had much success in the past, but what are you going to do about it? It's three or four games and 15 at-bats, and they add up over a three- or four-year period. It was nice this year to play a little better. Now we've got another round."

Who knew this was the year?

Bagwell suffered through the worst regular season of his 14-year career. He batted a career-low .266 with 27 homers and 89 RBIs -- good numbers but not by Bagwell's high standards. It marked his worst run production since 1995, when he missed a month of the season with a fractured left hand.

Biggio had a solid regular season despite making the switch from center to left field when Beltran arrived. He batted .281 with a career-high 24 home runs and 63 RBIs, padding his totals as the franchise's all-time leader in games, hits, runs, at-bats, singles and doubles.

The Astros rallied to win the Wild Card, leaving Bagwell and Biggio to answer those same old questions about postseason futility. This year, they let their bats provide the answers.

"I've said many times they've been the heartbeat of this team, and they have been since they've been here. ... It was so important that they played a key role."
-- Astros owner McLane on Bagwell and Biggio

Biggio turned it on in Games 4 and 5 and finished the series with a .400 batting average and five runs scored. Bagwell hit the first two postseason home runs of his career, including a solo shot on Monday, and finished with a .318 average and five RBIs, second only to Beltran's nine.

Somewhere in the madness of the champagne-soaked clubhouse, Bagwell and Biggio exchanged a hug and a smile more than a decade in the making.

"I've been waiting a long time to see those two guys with faces like that on them," beamed pitcher Brandon Backe, who grew up in nearby Galveston idolizing the duo.

Suddenly, Biggio was charging.

"Atta boy there, Superman!" Biggio yelled, pounding Backe on the chest and dumping champagne on his head.

"Those two guys, that's the way I want to play the game," Backe said. "They're hustlers, you know? Every day. I learned so much from those guys, watching them on TV. My dad, my coaches, they were watching the same guys on TV. That's how I learned that you get dirty and good things will happen. Here we are."

Here they are, celebrating the first postseason series win in franchise history.

And there they go, to the NLCS in St. Louis.

"They've been so close to getting over this thing," Garner said. "I'm happy for those two, and they're the reason that Houston is the baseball city that it is right now."

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