It was a magical regular season for the Chicago Cubs. The postseason is the same, old thing.
Two outs from evening their first-round playoffs series, the Cubs wasted a ninth-inning lead when Javy Lopez homered, squandered a great scoring chance in the 10th, then had a defensive mixup in the bottom half and lost to the Atlanta Braves 2-1 on Chipper Jones' single Thursday night.
"We couldn't let them get out of here with a split," Jones said. "They would have had all the momentum going back to that crazy place in Chicago. This was huge."
The Cubs, seeking their first World Series title since 1908, turned sloppy after Kevin Tapani's brilliant performance. He took a four-hit shutout into the ninth before giving up Lopez's homer into the left-field stands.
"He just got a pitch up to Javy, and Javy did what he's been doing all year," Chicago manager Jim Riggleman said."There's a lot of guys in that clubhouse that are agonizing right now that we didn't win this ballgame."
In the top of the 10th, Glenallen Hill led off with walk, was bunted to second by Gary Gaetti and stole third after an intentional walk to Mickey Morandini.
But former Atlanta shortstop Jeff Blauser struck out against rookie Odalis Perez and Lopez threw out Morandani, who was trying to steal second on the 3-2 pitch.
In the bottom of the inning the Braves struck quickly against loser Terry Mulholland, who took over for Tapani. Walt Weiss walked with one out and Tony Graffanino bunted down the first-base line to four-time Gold Glove winner Mark Grace.
Grace was late making the throw to Mulholland covering the bag, and the pitcher missed the bag for an error. On the next pitch, Jones lined a drive just inside the left-field line while Weiss trotted home with the winning run.
"It's good to have a little luck in these things," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Jones, who struck out in his first three at-bats, danced down the line when third-base umpire Frank Pulli signaled fair.
"I don't know how it stayed fair," Jones said. "With the night I had, I guess that's a little bit of justice."
Chicago scored only two runs in two games at Turner Field, but nearly left Atlanta with the series tied because of Tapani's unlikely performance. He gave up five hits and struck out six in nine innings.
Perez got the win in the first postseason appearance of his career.
Though he was Chicago's top winner (19-9) during the season, Tapani had a 4.79 ERA and was roughed up badly in his previous two starts, giving up 17 hits and 10 earned runs in 10 2-3 innings.
The Cubs usually try to pound teams into submission with Sammy Sosa and the rest of the offense, having scored 831 runs to rank third in the league. But Chicago was routed 7-1 in the first game and managed only four hits Wednesday against Tom Glavine and four relievers.
Glavine was brilliant, taking a no-hitter into the sixth. But Morandini led off with a single to right, and Scott Servais lunged at an outside changeup and blooped another single in front of right fielder Michael Tucker.
After Tapani sacrificed the runners to second and third, manager Bobby Cox made a curious decision, ordering his infield to play back. Lance Johnson hit a slow roller to second, with Morandini streaking across the plate as Keith Lockhart threw to first for the out.
That was enough for Tapani, who gave up two hits to the first four batters, then looked like he belonged on the Braves staff. He escaped that early trouble by striking out Ryan Klesko, and surrendered only two more hits until Lopez's homer in the ninth.
The Braves had a chance to go ahead in the fifth. Tucker led off with a walk, was bunted to second by Glavine and moved to third on Tapani's first balk of the season. But Weiss struck out swinging and Lockhart ended flied out to left.
Sosa, second to Mark McGwire with 66 homers, was 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. His most memorable at-bat came in the fifth, when he hit a towering popup that almost seemed to drive Lockhart into the ground.
Tapani and Glavine had met twice before in the postseason - in the 1991 World Series, when Tapani pitched for Minnesota. He led the Twins to 3-2 victory in Game 2, but Glavine came back for a 14-5 win in Game 5
After failing to sell out Game 1, the Braves drew a noisy crowd of 51,713, the largest in the two-year history of Turner Field.
Notes: The Cubs were went back to Chicago after the game and will hold a 3 p.m. CDT workout at Wrigley Field. The Braves, traveling on Friday, are scheduled to work out at 4:10 p.m.
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