MLB notes: Braves draw sellout crowd
Braves fans were tailgating four hours before Atlanta’s first home playoff game since 2005. Then 53,284 fans packed Turner Field for a Game 3 sellout against the San Francisco Giants.
Apparently, five years without postseason play has cured Atlanta’s apathy for division series baseball.
Braves fans were criticized for failing to sell out N.L. division series games in the final years of Atlanta’s streak of 14 straight division championships. The run of consecutive postseasons included World Series appearances in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1999, and some fans began saving funds for the N.L. championship series or World Series.
As the record run of division championships grew, the division series looked less attractive.
The apathy ended Sunday, when no seats were for sale. The sellout was a contrast to the 40,590 the Braves drew for their first home division series game against the Astros in 2005, and 41,464 against the Astros in 2004. In 2002, the last year the Braves opened the postseason against the Giants, attendance for the first home game was 41,903.
Billy Wagner’s career may be over.
Wagner, fifth all-time with 421 saves, was removed from the Braves’ N.L. division series roster before Game 3 on Sunday against the Giants because of a left oblique injury.
The Braves also announced Derek Lowe will start in Game 4 against the San Francisco Giants.
Wagner, who is retiring after the season, was hurt in the 10th inning of Friday night’s 5-4 win over the Giants. Braves manager Bobby Cox said Wagner tried to throw “and he can’t go at all.”
The Braves replaced the 38-year-old Wagner with another veteran, right-hander Takashi Saito.
By replacing Wagner, the Braves will be without the left-hander for the remainder of the division series and, if they advance, the National League championship series.
Wagner would be eligible if the Braves play in the World Series.
Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena accomplished an unconventional cycle in the A.L. division series against the Texas Rangers.
Pena had a triple and a double in his first two at-bats Sunday in the Rays’ 5-2 win that forced a deciding Game 5 in the series. That came after he had an RBI single and a solo homer in the final two innings of Saturday night’s 6-3 win.
“I didn’t even notice that until someone mentioned it,” Pena said. “It’s something that just happens.”
After leading the majors with a .359 batting and .633 slugging percentage during the regular season, Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton is 2 for 14 with no extra-base hits or RBIs in the A.L. division series against Tampa Bay.
Rays catcher John Jaso said they have tried to stay ahead in the count against Hamilton, who hit 32 home runs and drove in 100 runs.
“He’s a great hitter,” Jaso said. “It’s nothing to take lightly. I think it’s good the way we’re attacking him, all the pitchers are comfortable going after him, and I think that’s a huge thing.”