Biggio doubles, scores in final game as Astros blank Braves

HOUSTON (AP) -- Craig Biggio didn't know when the tears would come on Sunday. Turns out all it took was hearing his children's voices.

The retiring Biggio doubled and scored in the first inning of his final game as the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0 before a record crowd at Minute Maid Park.

The 41-year-old Biggio, who played his entire 20-season career in Houston, got standing ovations every time he batted. He fought off his emotions throughout the game, but lost it a few times in the dugout between innings, when personal messages from his three children -- 14-year-old Conor, 12-year-old Cavan and 8-year-old Quinn -- were played on the giant scoreboard.

"If you're older, you cry all the time and there's nothing wrong with it," he said. "But it's a good emotion. It's a good cry, a healthy cry."

Biggio became the 27th player to reach 3,000 hits on June 28 and announced his retirement a month later. He will leave as the franchise's all-time leader in games, at-bats, hits, doubles and total bases.

He finished with 3,060 career hits and will finish 20th on the all-time list, just behind Cap Anson (3,081). Of the 19 players ahead of him, only Pete Rose is not in the Hall of Fame.

Chipper Jones, who came into the game trailing Matt Holliday by one point in the batting race, went 0-for-3 to fall to .337. Holliday went 1-for-3 in Denver, as the Rockies beat Arizona 4-3 to force a one-game tiebreaker with San Diego on Monday.

Holliday would have to go 0-for-5 or worse for Jones to win the batting title.

The weekend series in Houston, meanwhile, was a three-day tribute for Biggio, with fans packing the park for one last glimpse at the franchise's most beloved all-time player. His final game drew 43,823, the largest crowd in the park's 7-year history.

Even Jeff Bagwell, who shared 15 seasons with Biggio, came to say goodbye.

"This was a special day. You see the way the crowd reacted to him all week and actually, all of his career," said Bagwell, the Astros' all-time leader in home runs and RBIs. "But things have to end. The Biggio-Bagwell era is over. You hope some of the things we established will carry over for a long time."

Biggio tipped his beat-up helmet to another standing ovation in the first inning before doubling off the left-field scoreboard off Atlanta starter Buddy Carlyle (8-7). Biggio finished his career with 668 doubles, fifth all-time and the most by a right-handed hitter.

He scored on Carlos Lee's single, his 1,843rd career run. The Astros took a 3-0 lead in the first.

"I was hoping to get a hit, I was hoping that we won," he said. "I didn't want to strike out on my last at-bat. I had all those things. It was a pretty fast day."

Biggio batted again in the second and grounded out, then flew out in the fifth.

The crowd swelled to another roar as Biggio walked to the plate for his final at-bat in the seventh. He took a deep breath as he dug in, but Atlanta reliever Ron Mahay stepped off the mound as the salute continued.

Biggio tipped his helmet one more time, hit a sharp bouncer to Jones at third and was out by a step.

"Standing in the on-deck circle, looking down at your shoes thinking, 'This is your last at-bat -- ever.' It was rough," he said.

He trotted out to second base for the last time to start the eighth inning and manager Cecil Cooper replaced him with Cody Ransom.

Biggio tipped his black cap to the fans and trotted off the field and the Astros all came out to meet him. Biggio embraced each one, then doffed his cap to the Braves dugout and savored another minute of cheers before disappearing into the dugout for the last time.

"I'm going to miss it," he said. "When you're sitting here thinking about it and all those people were standing up and going crazy, you're thinking, this is pretty special. These people are here to say goodbye to you. It's a great feeling."

Hunter Pence added an RBI double in the Astros' 3-run first and Houston rookie Felipe Paulino (2-1), making his third major league start, allowed only two hits in six shutout innings.

But the day belonged to Biggio.

In the pre-game ceremony, the Astros presented Biggio with a commemorative second base and a letter from baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

"I wish you the best of luck as your playing career comes to an end," the letter concluded, "and I look forward to our paths crossing in the very near future and again, several years from now, in Cooperstown."

The franchise also gave him a check for $3,059 -- a dollar for every career hit -- for Biggio's charity, the Sunshine Kids, which benefits children stricken with cancer.

The Astros and Braves joined fans in a minute-long salute before Biggio took the microphone from owner Drayton McLane and addressed the crowd.

"People ask me why I play the game the way I do," he said. "It's because you guys expect it."

Game notes
Lee finished with 119 RBIs. ... Jeff Francoeur became only the eighth player in Braves history to start every game. ... The Astros topped 3 million in attendance for the third time in four seasons.