CHICAGO - The warmup exercise is over for the Atlanta Braves.
Sights set on extending their season to Halloween, and playing without most of their regulars, the Braves closed out the regular season Sunday afternoon with a 10-8 loss to the Cubs before a packed house at Wrigley Field.
Awaiting them Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field in Game 1 of the Division Series are the red-hot Houston Astros, who claimed the National League wild card with a 5-3 win over the Rockies Sunday. It's a matchup that favors the Braves, given that the two teams have met three times in the Division Series since 1997 and the Astros have won only one of 10 games.
Given the Braves' recent history of failure in the postseason, that might not be as good as it sounds.
"They're the hottest team in baseball," closer John Smoltz said. "I don't know if anything is a good matchup with the hottest team in baseball."
The first two games of the Division Series at Turner Field are scheduled to start at 4:09 p.m.
The Braves played this one without Chipper Jones, J.D. Drew, Andruw Jones, and Johnny Estrada. Adam LaRoche hit his 13th home run in the seventh
Braves starter Paul Byrd allowed five runs in the first inning. A lineup filled with reserves produced 11 hits against Maddux (16-11) and four relievers. Left fielder Charles Thomas had two home runs in the game.
"I've been thinking about (the postseason) so much. Excitement is an understatement. I'm really looking forward to it," Thomas said.
The schedule for the Atlanta Braves' National League Division Series:
Atlanta vs. Houston
Reach Bill Zack at BZack30143@aol.com.