ATLANTA — With the season on the line, the Atlanta Braves couldn't get the final three outs.
Now, they'll have the whole winter to ponder an unprecedented collapse.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel surrendered the tying run in the ninth, and Hunter Pence came through with a two-out, run-scoring single in the 13th to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 4-3 victory that ended the Braves season Wednesday night without a trip to the playoffs that looked like a certainty just a few weeks ago.
The game ended more than an hour after St. Louis routed Houston 8-0 to claim at least a share of the wild card. The Cardinals earned it outright when David Herndon earned his first career save by getting Freddie Freeman to hit into a season-ending double play.
This one might hurt as bad as all those postseason losses in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Braves were 10½ games ahead of St. Louis before play on Aug. 26. They were still up by 8½ games on the morning of Sept. 6. Instead of popping champagne for a second straight trip to the playoffs, they became the first team in major league history to blow a lead of at least eight games for a playoff spot in September.
They might have company if Boston does the same in the AL.
But that would be of little consolation in Atlanta.
The Braves had this one. And they blew it, losing five straight to end the regular season and going 9-18 in the final month.