ATLANTA -- In the absence of overwhelming statistical evidence, Braves manager Bobby Cox will have to rely on his instincts when choosing his No. 3 starter for the Division Series, after a middling outing by Andy Ashby on Friday night.
Ashby entered Friday's game on a personal four-game winning streak and figured to solidify that role for the first round of postseason play with a stellar performance. Instead, he lapsed in the fifth inning and suffered a 4-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies before 44,548 at Turner Field.
The loss was the Braves' third straight, and it kept them from gaining any ground in the race for the National League's best record and home-field advantage in the playoffs. The San Francisco Giants played late Friday night, and the Cardinals lost to the Cincinnati Reds, keeping them tied with Atlanta a game behind San Francisco.
"We've talked about that, and we're trying not to consume ourselves with it," said Reggie Sanders, who continued his torrid hitting with a pair of singles. "Our objective was to win the division, and we've done that. If we win home-field advantage, it's great. If not we'll go to St. Louis and start there. We're a team that can go to any ballpark and perform."
It's not that Ashby was terrible. On the contrary, he retired the final nine batters he faced and gave the Braves an opportunity to win.
But Atlanta's bats, dormant since a 7-1 win that clinched the NL East title Tuesday in New York, floundered against Colorado's Brian Bohanon, who went 6 2/3 innings and allowed two runs During one stretch, he retired 13 straight batters. The win guaranteed the Rockies to finish .500 or better.
Ashby (12-13 overall, 8-6 since coming to Atlanta) was caught in the Friday afternoon traffic snarls and arrived at the ballpark at 5:15 p.m. On game days, he normally arrives at 3:30, but he said it didn't affect his preparation for the game.
"It was awful," he said. "I got out on the highway and just sat there. You want to get to the park and relax. I just don't like being late."
The loss spoiled Ashby's chance to finish above .500 for the year, and it left the door open for Kevin Millwood to start Game 3 of the Division Series.
"I really don't think about stuff like that," he said. "That's kind of a negative way to go about it. The thing I've been focused on is what I have to do to pitch every five days. Whatever it may be, I want to go out and do whatever (postseason) role I'm in."
Ashby struck out one and walked one in seven innings, but was saddled with back-to-back home runs from Todd Hollandsworth and Terry Shumpert.
The Braves grabbed the early lead on Galarraga's RBI single in the first. It was his 100th RBI, marking the fifth time in his past five seasons that he reached the century mark.
But Atlanta missed a chance to give Ashby some breathing room in the second, when it loaded the bases with two out. Bohanon (12-10) got out of trouble thanks to Chipper Jones, who flied out to center to end the threat, leaving the Braves' third baseman with a .083 batting average with the bases loaded.
"We had some opportunities on Bohanon," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's been with several ball clubs and he's always pitched great."
It was a rocky night for Rockies catcher Brent Mayne, who hit Andruw Jones' bat throwing to third on a double steal in the second. Mayne also dropped a foul pop-up by Javy Lopez and was hit in the groin on Andruw Jones' foul ball in the bottom of the fifth.
Colorado first baseman Todd Helton, who entered the night leading the major leagues with a .374 batting average, went 1-for-4 with a ninth-inning home run, his 41st, off reliever Kerry Ligtenberg.
Ashby cruised through the first four innings before getting hit hard in the fifth. After a leadoff single by Todd Walker, Hollandsworth belted a 1-0 fastball into the seats in right-center field. Shumpert made it back-to-back homers, launching a 2-2 offering into the stands in left and giving the Rockies a 3-1 lead.
Furcal drove in pinch-runner Mark DeRosa with a two-out double to chase Bohanon in the seventh, but reliever Gabe White struck out Andruw Jones to end the threat.
White tossed a perfect eighth, and Jose Jimenez pitched the ninth for his 24th save for Colorado.
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