ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The venue may have changed, but the
offense just kept on producing.
went 3-for-3 with a home run before leaving with an injury and
won a postseason Game One for the first time in his career as the Astros rolled to a 9-3 triumph over the
in the opener of their National League Division Series.
The Astros may have been baseball's hottest team down the stretch, winning 36 of their final 46 games. Included in that run were 18 straight wins at Minute Maid Park - the last six of which came during the season's final week, when Houston secured the wild card berth.
As the wild card, Houston had to start the best-of-five series at Turner Field, but the change of stadiums did little to slow one of the league's most potent lineups as Houston hit four homers and staked Clemens (1-0) to an early 7-1 lead.
erased a 1-0 deficit with a solo shot off
(0-1) in the third and
added a two-run shot later in the inning. Beltran hit a two-run blast in the fifth to give Houston a 6-1 advantage.
"Up and down the lineup, guys are confident," Berkman said. "I know if I don't get it done, somebody will get it done."
"My theory is they figured if I can hit a home run, anybody can," Ausmus said. "I feel like we have an opportunity. The biggest thing with an opportunity in the postseason is taking advantage of it."
Beltran was drilled in the ribs in the seventh inning and left the game in the bottom half of the frame.
"It feels sore," he said. "The ball really hit me square in the ribs. Everything (on the X-rays) was negative, but I'm worried a little because every time I cough or breathe, it hurts a little. But I believe in the team. I just want to see how it feels tomorrow. I don't want to put myself in a position if I'm not 100 percent."
Clemens battled control issues but won a postseason series opener for the first time in seven tries. The 42-year-old righthander allowed three runs - two earned - and six hits in seven innings. He walked six - his most in any game since May 13, 1998 - and struck out seven.
"I got myself in a couple of tough situations," Clemens said. "But in games like this, I can't allow myself to come to the middle (of the plate). It was not work, it was more of a grind. In the past, not only here, I have shown my managers that I can get out of certain situations."
"He's probably the best that I've ever seen in terms of damage control," Astros left fielder
said. "He's not going to let certain guys beat him. He's really pretty impressive."
Wright was tagged for six runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out six but surrendered three home runs. Wright, who last started a playoff game in 1998, had not allowed more than three homers in any month this season.
"We made a few mistakes," Wright said. "They were home runs. They didn't miss them. They hit them out of the park. I'm getting used to not giving up home runs, and giving up three today was not good."
Atlanta did not help their starter, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position during the game and leaving 12 on.
"We were patient at times to get runners on," Atlanta manager
said. "We weren't very patient after they got on. (Clemens) made us chase some splits in the dirt and things like that that he normally does. That's what makes him so darn good, he can make you do that."
"We should have taken advantage when we had the opportunities," Atlanta center fielder
said. "Of course, we didn't and that was the ballgame right there."
Game Two is Thursday with the Braves looking to get even behind veteran lefthander
. The Astros counter with
, the only 20-game winner in the National League.
After Wright stranded a runner in scoring position in the top of the first, Clemens lost the plate in the bottom of the inning.
reached on an error and Clemens walked back-to-back batters before
delivered a sacrifice fly.
Clemens escaped another jam in the second and Houston took the lead for good in the third. Ausmus knotted the game by opening the third with a homer to left, but Wright got the next two batters. Beltran singled, Bagwell ripped an RBI double into the right-center field gap and Berkman made it 4-1 with a homer to right.
Clemens struck out rookie
with the bases loaded to end the third and got
to ground to third with runners in scoring position to end the fourth.
"I think it was not being out there for a week," Clemens said of his early struggles. "You just want your body to react and be sharp and give life to your teammates. I was able to wiggle my way through some innings. And we put some runs on the board. It was nice."
"He's got great intensity," Bagwell said. "There's a reason why he has all the wins he has. He's just special. He's one of the best pitchers to play the game."
Wright then fell apart in the fifth. Biggio reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on Beltran's homer to center field.
came on and allowed a single by Bagwell and an RBI double by
that pushed the lead to 7-1.
Beltran was plunked in the seventh but scored Houston's eighth run before leaving.
, who replaced Beltran, capped the scoring with a homer off
to open the ninth. The nine runs scored by Houston were its most in a postseason game.
The Braves are 5-0 in Division Series when winning the opener, 1-3 when dropping Game One. Compounding matters for Atlanta is the status of
, who is questionable for Thursday's game with a right hand injury he aggravated diving on
's ground ball in the top of the fifth.
"We're down 1-0," Giles said. "Simple thing is you've got to win three of the next four games. We've all done that before. It's no secret. We need to get it."