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Major League Baseball Playoffs Set to Begin  - 2004-10-04


The Major League Baseball playoffs are set to begin Tuesday after a regular season that provided lots of excitement.

The Houston Astros had been pre-season favorites to make the National League playoffs, but in the middle of the season their chances were practically written off as they were next to last place in their division. They decided to change managers and not long afterward the losses turned into wins.

Houston slowly got back into the playoff picture. But the way the Astros ended the season to make the playoffs was remarkable. They finished up with 36 wins in their last 46 games. Houston won its last seven games and won its last 18 games on its home field. The Astros needed every one of those wins, because they edged out the San Francisco Giants by just one game for the wild card playoff berth that goes to the best second-placed team.

The manager who took over Houston in mid-season, Phil Garner, says all the Astros deserve credit.

"Our veteran corps has come through when they need it," he said. "I think they've shown the leadership. The veterans have led us here and the young fellows have pitched in and done a tremendous job."

And here are the thoughts of Houston outfielder Craig Biggio on making the playoffs.

"This one's pretty special considering all the things we've have to overcome," he said. "And the start of the season was so magical and the middle of the season was so miserable and the guys never gave up."

Houston will open its playoff campaign Wednesday on road against the Atlanta Braves.

The first post-season games in the best-of-five divisional series are set for Tuesday. The American League champion New York Yankees host the Minnesota Twins, and the American League wild card team, the Boston Red Sox, visit the Anaheim Angels. The other National League series has the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The National and American League batting champions will miss the playoffs as their teams fell short. San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds won his second NL batting title in three years with a .362 average, while shattering baseball's on-base percentage (.610), walks (232) and intentional walks (120) records he set two years ago.

Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki of Japan had two singles Sunday to push his record for hits in a season to 262 - five more than George Sisler's record set in 1920. Suzuki won his second AL batting crown and led the majors in hitting with a .372 average.

The Major Leagues set a season attendance record with more than 73 million fans going to games. Seven teams set home attendance records, including the New York Yankees.

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