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Beltran exits with bruised ribs
10/06/2004 7:03 PM ET
ATLANTA -- Carlos Beltran's monster postseason debut came to a sudden end in the seventh inning Wednesday, when he was hit by a pitch and left an inning later from Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Turner Field.

The good news: X-rays of Beltran's bruised right ribs were negative and the Astros went on to finish a 9-3 win over the Braves.

The bad news: Even Beltran was unsure about his availability for Thursday's Game 2.

"That ball really hit me pretty square in my ribs," said Beltran, who finished 3-for-3 with a two-run home run and three runs scored. "I'm worried a little bit. When I cough, or every time I breathe hard, I feel it a little bit. At the same time, I believe in the rest of the guys on the team."

One of those guys was Jason Lane, who entered the game when Beltran left, homered in his first postseason at-bat and made a slick catch in right field. If Beltran cannot go in Game 2, Lane could see action.

Lane is among the Astros hoping to see Beltran back in action.

"He's our guy," Lane said. "He's the reason we got here. Our main concern is for him to get healthy, but I feel like if it's my role to step in, I'm confident and would be excited to be in there."

With his Astros leading, 7-3, and Beltran on pace for a big day, a pitch from hard-throwing Braves reliever Juan Cruz ran in on Beltran, who was batting left-handed, and struck him on the right side of the rib cage.

The first response was pain. Then came relief. Then came anger.

"That's a guy who can throw 98, 99 mph," Beltran said. "He can kill a player with a ball. I was lucky that the ball just hit me in the ribs and I was able to stand up."

Beltran exchanged words with Cruz as he walked slowly to first base and drew a visit from manager Phil Garner and an Astros trainer.

"It hurt him pretty good," Garner said. "He was having trouble breathing when I got out there."

Beltran got revenge when he came around to score Houston's eighth run. Did he feel the pitch was intentional?

   Carlos Beltran  /   CF
Born: 04/24/77
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

"I was angry," Beltran said. "He threw me a first-pitch slider away and the second pitch was a fastball in, not even close to the plate. I don't know. ... I just asked him. I wanted to see his reaction, if it was on purpose or not. His response back to me, I don't think it was on purpose."

What did Beltran's teammates think?

"I'm skeptical," said Astros catcher Brad Ausmus. "I don't think it was on purpose. Juan, at times, can let the ball fly. You just never know. There's always that doubt."

Said Jeff Bagwell: "It's not something we enjoyed, and we'll leave it at that."

But as Roger Clemens went out to pitch the bottom of the seventh, Beltran was not behind him. Lance Berkman moved from right field to replace Beltran in center and Lane entered the game to play right. A report from the trainers' room diagnosed Beltran with bruised right ribs.

It was a painful ending to a big day. Every time the Astros rallied, there was Beltran.

He scored the go-ahead run in Houston's four-run third inning and clubbed a two-run home run to help open a 7-1 lead in the fifth. After getting hit by the pitch in the seventh, Beltran scored the Astros' eighth run, a franchise record for a postseason game.

When his first day in the postseason was done, Beltran had gone 3-for-3 with three runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base.

"This is a dream come true for me," he said.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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