Braves 6, Astros 5

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HOUSTON (AP)—The Atlanta Braves are confident they can come back from any deficit no matter how late in a game.

Pinch-hitter Marcus Giles’ sacrifice fly drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, and the Braves beat the Houston Astros 6-5 on Thursday night.

“The good thing about this team is it is not giving up,” Giles said. “Last year, we hit home runs to come back. Now we do the little things like move runners around. But it just seems like we’re never out of it.”

It was the 11th time this season Atlanta has won in its final at-bat, and the third since the All-Star break. The Braves, 15-5 since the break, have won seven of their last eight and 11 of 13.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Chipper Jones said. “Even when we’re down 5-1, we just bounce right back.”

With the game tied at 5 in the ninth, J.D. Drew hit a leadoff single and Jones doubled off reliever Dan Miceli. After an intentional walk to Andruw Jones loaded the bases, Giles hit a lazy fly to right that scored Drew.

“I obviously was trying to stay away from a double-play ball, a rally killer,” Giles said. “I was just fortunate to get one I could hit to the outfield.”

Marrero’s two-run homer followed Julio Franco’s two-run double in the sixth.

“Eli had a huge hit,” Chipper Jones said. “Once the game was tied, it’s anybody’s game.”

Manager Bobby Cox thought the dimensions of Minute Maid Park, with its short porches in right and left, helped his team.

“Even when we were down by four, I just knew this ballpark,” Cox said. “You’re never out of it here. Things can happen.”

It kept the Astros at .500 for interim manager Phil Garner, who is 10-10 since taking over after the All-Star break.

“We tried everything we could to win,” Garner said. “Leaving 12 men on base killed us. You can’t win a game like that leaving that many men on base. It’s no different than any other loss, but when you lose one like this, it means you’ve got to win two to make up for it.”

The Astros slipped to six games behind the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card race.

“At this point in the season, this was a tough game to lose,” Jeff Bagwell said. “We came back and they came back to win. They have a tough bullpen to score against.”

Juan Cruz (4-0) pitched a perfect eighth for the win, and John Smoltz threw a scoreless ninth for his 27th save in 29 opportunities.

Miceli (4-6) allowed one run on two hits in the loss.

Carlos Beltran started the scoring with a solo home run in the first. It was his 27th homer of the season, and 12th since being acquired by the Astros on June 24 from Kansas City.

The Braves tied it in the second with an unearned run. Reliever Kirk Bullinger appeared to be out of the inning on a grounder by Marrero but shortstop Adam Everett bobbled it, allowing Marrero to reach first and Andruw Jones to score from third.

With the bases loaded in the fourth, Everett singled in two runs for a 3-1 lead.

In the fifth, Brad Ausmus bounced an infield single over reliever Kevin Gryboski to drive in one run with the bases loaded. Tom Martin replaced Gryboski and issued a bases-loaded walk to Craig Biggio, giving the Astros a 5-1 lead.

Braves starter Mike Hampton, who hasn’t lost since June 29 against Florida, went 4 1-3 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits and a season-high six walks.

Astros starter Darren Oliver, filling in for an injured Andy Pettitte, left after the first inning with tightness in his left shoulder. Oliver pitched a perfect first with one strikeout, needing only 12 pitches.


The 33-year-old Oliver has been on the DL three times in his career with left shoulder problems. In 1995, he missed the last three months of the season with a partial tear of his left rotator cuff that required surgery. He also missed two weeks in 1998 with a sore left shoulder and was on the disabled list twice in 2000 with shoulder tendinitis. … Franco’s hit in the sixth gave him 2,416 for his career, moving him past Mickey Mantle for 94th place on the all-time list.

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