ATLANTA (AP)—The Houston Astros lost their manager, a coach and the starting pitcher.
Then, they lost their lead—not once, but twice.
Finally, they lost the game.
“I saw some things tonight that I’ve never seen,” said Craig Biggio, a mere footnote despite homering twice and getting his 2,500th career hit. “It was just crazy. I don’t even know how to describe it.”
The Braves rallied in both the eighth and ninth innings and won it when Jones, in a 1-for-21 slump, hit a two-out homer off Ricky Stone (1-1) that barely cleared the right-field wall.
“I was just trying to hit the ball to right field,” Jones said. “I wanted to get a blooper or anything to get something started.”
The Astros didn’t use closer Octavio Dotel, who had pitched in three straight games. Stone made the pitch he wanted—a sinker away—but Jones went the opposite way.
“He hit a good pitch,” Stone said.
Jesse Garcia was right in the middle of both Atlanta comebacks, which helped the Braves stop a three-game losing streak.
First, he convinced umpires he had been grazed on the helmet with a pitch, sparking a two-run eighth that tied the game 3-3. The disputed call led to the ejection of Astros manager Jimy Williams. Before the inning was over, bench coach John Tamargo and pitcher Roy Oswalt also were tossed.
Houston went back ahead on Jose Vizcaino’s run-scoring single in the ninth, but Atlanta bounced back again.
Pinch-hitter Johnny Estrada singled and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Garcia, a valuable fill-in for the injury plagued Braves, followed with a liner that was barely fair and rolled into the right-field corner for a tying triple.
“It was a big win for our confidence,” Garcia said. “We’re just trying to get healthy.”
Biggio led off the game with a single, becoming the 80th player—and first in Astros history—to reach 2,500 hits. He homered in his next two at-bats off Horacio Ramirez, giving Houston a 3-1 lead.
But the late innings overshadowed Biggio’s big night.
The fireworks started in the eighth when Garcia claimed a pitch from Oswalt nicked the top of his helmet and began trotting toward first.
Plate umpire Gary Darling didn’t make a call but consulted with second-base umpire Rob Drake, who ruled that Garcia had been hit. Williams was livid, spinning away from Darling several times to go after Drake.
The Astros couldn’t believe that Darling deferred to Drake on a call at home plate.
“There’s no way, with a guy throwing 96 miles an hour, he can see the ball touch a guys’ helmet from second base,” Oswalt said. “And he surely can’t hear it from 90 feet away. There’s probably 40,000 fans screaming and you can hear a ball hit the helmet? That’s pretty good ears.”
Television replays were inconclusive, but Garcia insisted the umps got it right.
“It hit my helmet,” he said.
Oswalt gave up a bases-loaded single to Adam LaRoche that pulled the Braves to 3-2, then threw up his arms after a low fastball to Chipper Jones was ruled a ball. Darling bounced out from behind the plate to admonish Oswalt, who wound up walking Jones, forcing in the tying run.
Tamargo, now running the team, came out to make a pitching change and wound up getting ejected when he began jawing with Darling. About that time, Oswalt tossed a blue case—filled with bubble gum—from the Houston dugout, and its contents sprayed along the third-base line.
Several batboys had to come out, scurrying around on their knees to clean up the mess.
“It’s one of those games that just got out of control,” Oswalt said. “I hate doing that. I really do.”
The Astros were still looking good when Mike Gallo and Brandon Backe pitched out of that jam, then Morgan Ensberg started the ninth with a triple. Andruw Jones attempted a diving catch at the warning track, but the ball fell from his glove when he hit the ground.
Vizcaino followed with a pinch-hit single up the middle off John Smoltz.
“A crazy game,” Biggio said again, shaking his head.
Andruw Jones was 0-for-17 until he singled his first time up. … Chipper Jones went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts after coming off the disabled list. He missed nearly three weeks with a strained right hamstring. … Biggio tied a career high with the 11th two-homer game of his career and first since June 17, 2001, against the Texas Rangers. … Braves SS Wilson Betemit, filling in for Rafael Furcal, picked up his first major league hit after being calledup from Triple-A Richmond before the game.