We’re counting down the best of the Braves, game by game, series by series, from Octobers past.
There was no reason to be optimistic heading into Game 4 of the 2004 NLDS. Recent playoff history had fans conditioned for failure. And the Braves were on the road, facing elimination and Roger Clemens. The Bravos countered with Russ Ortiz, who had an ERA above six in the season’s final two months, with 44 walks in 62-1/3 IP.
It started out promising enough, with the Braves scoring two in the 2nd. But the Astros answered with five runs in the bottom half of the frame. The score remained 5-2 until the 6th, when Chad Qualls relieved Clemens. With one out and two on, Adam LaRoche hit a towering homer to right center, knotting the score.
The two bullpens exchanged zeroes into the 9th. With 2 out and none on, former Brave Russ Springer plunked Rafael Furcal, who stole second. That brought up J.D. Drew, who broke the tie with a single up the middle.
Smoltzie made it interesting in the bottom of the 9th, allowing consecutive one out singles to Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. But the Braves closer recovered to coax a game-ending double play from Jeff Kent. The series was headed back to Atlanta for the deciding Game 5.
Needless to say, the Braves laid a giant turd, just as they had done in 2002 and 2003, the only other seasons in which they played a Game 5 in their NLDS history. Because of that, the ultimate #Braves postseason moves on to Middle America for Game 1 of the NLCS.