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Braves continue free fall

But they hang on to lead as Cards fail to capitalize

Associated Press / September 27, 2011

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The televisions in the Atlanta clubhouse had all been switched off. The Braves didn’t even bother hanging around to watch the team that’s chasing them in the wild-card race.

All they cared about was another wrenching loss in their September swoon.

Atlanta squandered an early two-run lead against Cliff Lee as the playoff-bound Philadelphia Phillies rallied for their 100th win of the season, 4-2, over the Braves in Atlanta last night. But the wild-card lead remained at one game when the St. Louis Cardinals lost at last-place Houston, 5-4, on a squeeze bunt in the 10th inning.

“Everybody is upset that we lost the game, but we’ve still got another game tomorrow,’’ Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said, trying to stay upbeat even with his team facing an epic collapse.

The Braves, still clinging to a once-comfortable lead in the wild-card race thanks to the Astros, lost their third straight and seventh in the last 10. Their September record dropped to 9-16, nearly wiping out a margin that had been 8 1/2 games just three weeks ago. There are two games left in the regular season.

The St. Louis-Houston contest was tied when most of the Braves cleared out of the clubhouse, not even checking a score on their phones.

“This is a tough loss for me,’’ said rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman, who came up three times with a runner at second and failed to come through. “The last thing I want to do is watch another ballgame.’’

Lee (17-8) pitched six strong innings, Jimmy Rollins homered and Raul Ibanez drove in two runs, leading the NL East champions past their division rivals to start the final series of the regular season.

They reached 100 wins for the third time in franchise history.

Meanwhile, St. Louis missed out on a chance to join Atlanta atop the wild-card standings.

After the Cardinals rallied from three runs down to force extra innings, Brian Bogusevic doubled off Octavio Dotel (3-3) in the 10th and advanced on Jason Bourgeois’s bunt. Angel Sanchez then dropped a bunt in front of the plate, and Bogusevic charged home as Dotel mishandled his attempt to flip the ball to catcher Yadier Molina with his glove.

Rangers 4, Angels 3 - Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer for Texas, eliminating host Los Angeles from the AL wild-card race.

In other games- Doug Fister pitched eight strong innings and Alex Avila drove in three runs to help host Detroit beat Cleveland, 14-0; Melky Cabrera became the first Kansas City player in 11 years to get 200 hits and Mike Moustakas hit the go-ahead home run in a four-run sixth inning as the Royals topped host Minnesota, 7-3; Chris Heisey hit a go-ahead, three-run homer and visiting Cincinnati held off the Mets, 6-5; Tyler Flowers hit a three-run homer, rookie Dylan Axelrod threw six shutout innings as the host White Sox beat Toronto, 4-3; Michael Morse hit a three-run homer with two out in the ninth inning, and Washington rallied to beat host Florida, 6-4; Justin Smoak hit a three-run, tie-breaking home run in the sixth inning to lift host Seattle, 4-2, over Oakland; Alex Presley homered to lead off the game and drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, lifting Pittsburgh to a 9-8 victory over host Milwaukee to snap a 12-game skid; Mat Latos took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and struck out nine in seven innings, and San Diego beat the visiting Cubs, 2-0; Matt Kemp hit a three-run homer to lift the Dodgers over host Arizona, 4-2, for their fourth straight win; Ryan Vogelsong threw seven shutout innings, Mike Fontenot tripled in two runs and host San Francisco beat Colorado, 3-1.

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