Just over an hour after learning that legendary pitcher Tom Glavine had been released by the club, the Braves had to go out and try to secure a series win against the Cubs. For the second night in a row, the Braves battled back from an early deficit to force extra innings, and Chipper Jones again played an important role. But unlike Tuesday night's thrilling 12-inning win over the Cubs, Wednesday didn't end happily for Atlanta.
Pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir delivered a soft RBI single off the end of the bat against Eric O'Flaherty in the 11th inning, scoring Derrek Lee to give the Cubs a 3-2 victory over the Braves and even the series.
"It's pretty hard to talk about," manager Bobby Cox said of Glavine's release. "We just finished a tough ballgame as well and got beat in extra innings, and that was no fun either."
Reliever Jeff Bennett walked Lee to open the Cubs' half of the 11th but then coaxed a flyout from Mike Fontenot. Despite the fact that left fielder Matt Diaz fielded the fly ball at medium depth in foul territory, Lee tagged up and hustled to second just before the throw arrived. After Reed Johnson singled to move Lee to third, O'Flaherty replaced Bennett.
Hoffpauir, the first batter O'Flaherty faced, managed to loft the ball just over third baseman Jones' head into left field to knock in the winning run.
"[O'Flaherty] made a good pitch," said starting pitcher Derek Lowe. "The guy just hit a little lob wedge down the left-field line. There's no defense for that."
Adding to the distractions surrounding Wednesday's game, the players learned about Atlanta's acquisition of Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth from Turner Field's video board in the second inning. Needless to say, this wasn't a typical day at the office for the Braves.
"As a player, you don't come here for these things," said catcher Brian McCann. "You come here to get your mind on the game and the Cubs. Any time you lose a friend like Glavine, it's tough."
Lowe took the hard-luck no-decision despite allowing just two runs on five hits in seven innings. He surrendered a two-run double to Fontenot in the fourth. Lowe then settled down to retire 11 of the last 13 hitters he faced.
"It was a tough one to lose," said Lowe. "The [past two] games were very similar. They won one, and we won one. Both clubs probably feel like we could have won both."
Lowe pitched into the seventh for the fourth consecutive game. Wednesday's game was the third time that he allowed three runs or fewer but didn't earn the victory.
"Lowe pitched an unbelievable game," McCann said. "He's done that every time out. He's kept us in every single ballgame. It's disappointing that we couldn't get him the win."
A night after being no-hit by Randy Wells through 6 2/3 innings, the Braves managed just one hit through the first five innings against Lilly. The left-hander allowed one earned run in seven innings while striking out seven.
"If you look back through the years, Lilly has been pretty tough against us when we've faced him," said right fielder Jeff Francoeur. "There are certain guys that are good against certain teams. He's been throwing well this year, and he continued to do it tonight."
Trailing 2-0, the Braves rallied in the sixth, getting one-out singles from Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar. After a Diaz fielder's choice moved Johnson to third, McCann singled him in to cut the Cubs' lead in half. Martin Prado followed with an infield single to load the bases, but Francoeur struck out on a pitch in the dirt to end the threat.
Atlanta tied the game one inning later. Gregor Blanco reached on a throwing error by Lilly after attempting to bunt his way on. Jones, who didn't start because his injured right foot bothers him more when he bats right-handed, pinch-hit for Lowe and roped a double off the base of the wall in center to score Blanco and tie the game.
Unfortunately, the Braves couldn't push across the game-winning run and could only watch as Hoffpauir flicked O'Flaherty's offering over Jones' head. Entering Wednesday's game, O'Flaherty had inherited 15 baserunners and allowed just one to score.
Atlanta had a chance to win in the ninth, when the club got a leadoff single from Francoeur, who was pinch-run for by recent call-up Brian Barton. After Garret Anderson flied out, Barton was thrown out trying to steal second, and Blanco grounded out to end the threat.
Adam Rosenberg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.