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10/07/2004 9:15 PM ET
Try and try again
Braves' frustrating day ended by Furcal's clutch hit
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Rafael Furcal follows through after ripping the game-winning home run to beat the Astros in Game 2 on Thursday. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

ATLANTA -- Thanks to Rafael Furcal's two-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning, numerous lost opportunities don't have the Braves on the brink of losing the Division Series.

Furcal's dramatics rallied the Braves to a 4-2 victory over the Astros in Game 2 of the Division Series at Turner Field on Thursday.

In danger of falling twice at home, Atlanta battled back from two runs down and evened the best-of-five series with Game 3 set for Saturday at Minute Maid Park.

"I think it's an understatement, the fact it was pretty big," said Chipper Jones, who went hitless in four at-bats for the second straight game. "We had opportunities all day. We couldn't get the big hit. I don't know, I just had a feeling about that [11th] inning. I felt Andruw [Jones] or [Marcus] Giles was going to do something. Furcal was the man of the hour. It seemed like he was locked in. He had good swings on guys."

None bigger than the blast off Dan Miceli with two outs and Charles Thomas on second in the 11th inning.

For the second straight game, the Braves squandered scoring chances. In Game 1 on Wednesday, they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and were unable to take advantage of seven walks in a 9-3 loss.

It was much of the same for most of Thursday.

Furcal's home run made Atlanta 3-for-13 with runners on scoring position. The Braves were hitless in their first five chances on Thursday before Furcal's RBI single off starter Roy Oswalt with two outs in the seventh trimmed the Astros' lead to 2-1.

Atlanta tried just about everything to scratch out a run off Oswalt, who dazzled with his 94 mph fastball and tantalizing curveball/changeup that was clocked as low as 68 mph on the stadium board.

Cox gambled with a suicide squeeze in the seventh with Furcal on third representing the tying run and contact hitter Giles at the plate. But with Furcal charging home on the pitch, Giles tapped foul a Brad Lidge slider. The standup Giles clearly was kicking himself for being unable to deliver.

   Rafael Furcal  /   SS
Born: 10/24/77
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 165 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

"Unbelievable," he said. "There is no excuse not to get that bunt down. Yeah, it's a slider, but it was right down the middle. It's not like a sacrifice bunt on a squeeze. You just have got to get it down on the diamond. It was pretty poor on my part. I needed definitely to get that ball down."

Collectively, Giles is irritated at seeing Braves stranded all over the bases. Twelve were left on Wednesday, matching the mark for most by a team in an NLDS. Ten more stood standing around on Thursday.

"It's not a matter of 'Let's try to get it done,' " Giles said. "Anybody can do that. It's a matter of getting it done. We're all trying out there. If we're not all trying, we shouldn't be out there, anyway. Trying is not good enough. We need to get it done.

"Our offense definitely has to step up, especially with men on base. I'm first in line. I don't think I have enough fingers and toes to tell you how many guys I've left on base the last two days. It's just awful. We do need to step up offensively to pick up our pitchers."

Credit is obviously due to the Astros, who ran out two imposing starters in Roger Clemens and Oswalt. Combined, J.D. Drew and Chipper Jones are 1-for-16 in the series.

   Adam LaRoche  /   1B
Born: 11/06/79
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

With their two big guys struggling, someone has to step up. On Wednesday it was Furcal and Adam LaRoche, who had an RBI double off Lidge to tie the game in the eighth.

LaRoche and Furcal each had three hits.

"It's exciting for me because we have been leaving a lot of runners in scoring position," Furcal said. "I kept my head up. I say to myself, 'The game's not finished yet.' "

LaRoche's approach facing Oswalt was simple -- pick a speed and sit on it.

"It seems like with him, you have to either look for the fastball or look for the big curveball," LaRoche said. "His curve is 70 mph and his fastball is 94 -- it's tough for me to sit and adjust to him. You almost have to sit on one of them. He does such a good job staying out of the middle of the plate on all of his pitches."

Chipper Jones' frustrations are in part because he's playing with a bruised right hand. But he's playing through it, and even joked about how tough it is being hitless while reliever John Smoltz collected a single.

"The worst thing that could happen is he's 1-for-1 and I'm 0-for-8," Jones deadpanned.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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