Houston...We Have Liftoff!

In a game featuring countless years of playoff futility for both teams, though with vastly different barometers of success, the Atlanta Braves could not withstand the onslaught of the "Killer B's" as the Houston Astros took the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS, 12-3, at Turner Field on Monday evening.

For the 12th time in their last 13 trips to the postseason, the Braves once again ended their season with a loss, failing to advance to the NLCS for the third consecutive season. Atlanta has captured just one World Series title in their otherwise impressive run of 13 straight postseason appearances.

Meanwhile, in their 43 years of existence, the Astros have never advanced past the first round, let alone a trip to the World Series. You can bet how thrilled longtime Astros and infamous "Killer B's" Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were to have finally won the first postseason series in franchise history.

"It's finally nice to move on," Biggio said, "The past is the past."

In the past 24 hours, however, Biggio and Bagwell could not have endured a more overwhelming emotional roller-coaster ride. Former teammate and friend Ken Caminiti died Sunday due to an apparent heart attack. Caminiti played 10 years with the Astros, eight to start his career beginning in 1987 and two more towards the twilight of his career in 1999 and 2000.

"It's been tough. I'm very excited, yet obviously very sad," Bagwell said. "It has been a tough 24 hours, but Cammy wouldn't have had it any other way, but to go out, play hard, and get a win for the Astros."

Carlos Beltran, the newest "Killer B," played hard the entire series, hitting .455 while slugging three homeruns. With a slim 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning, Beltran blasted a solo homerun to add some cushion, making it 4-2. He finished the evening going 4-for-5 with 5 RBI.

The game was in arm's reach for the Braves up until the top of the seventh inning when Biggio, Beltran, Bagwell, and Lance Berkman all hit safely and scored four consecutive runs, breaking the game open, 9-2.

The Astros never looked back, stretching the lead all the way to 12-3 to bring the series total to 36 runs. The Houston offense, with the help of the Killer B's, set an NLDS record for most runs scored.

"For how hard we had to play the last month and a half, to have one where it was almost a laugher for us that some guys could relax there in the end was really nice," said a relaxed Roger Clemens, who has seen his share of postseason victories.

The celebration will be short and sweet because the Astros will have to travel to St. Louis to meet the NL Central champion Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Wednesday evening. The Cards will send up Woody Williams (5-3, 3.36 ERA at Home) against Astros right-hander Brandon Backe (1-2, 6.52 ERA on the Road).

Around the Majors
* With the big showdown set to kick off on Tuesday night between Boston and New York, Red Sox Nation wasted no time in voicing their opinion when they convinced MLB to recall t-shirts that read: "Hey Red Sox ... Who's your daddy?'' The shirts were made in response to Pedro Martinez's comments following a recent loss to the Yankees. The few thousand shirts that were made were recalled and the entire merchandise was taken off the Web site.

* Grieving Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is scheduled to return in time to pitch in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Red Sox, following a funeral for two of his wife's relatives.

* Robin Ventura announced his retirement from baseball after 16 years of major league service.

* The Cincinnati Reds extended the contract of manager Dave Miley through 2006, with a club option for 2007.

Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at phildelacruz@aol.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.

The views expressed in the columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the site's publisher, writers, or other staff members. The content on this site may not be redistributed without the expressed consent of SFDugout.com.

Giants Farm Top Stories