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Notes: Ryan confident in Astros10/09/2004 1:47 PM ET
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan likes the Astros' chances this postseason, mainly because of how the regular season ended. Although it's nice to lock up a division title in mid-September and coast the rest of the year -- like the Cardinals did this season -- Ryan, who played on five playoff teams, including the 1969 Mets and 1986 Astros, thinks there's something to be said about the way the Astros went about their business late in the season. "With what they went through during the summer, the fact that they didn't play well for such an extended period of time and the fans supported them all the way through, the fact that they came back and finished like they did and got the momentum going, I think they believe in themselves," Ryan said. "That's really important. I'd rather have momentum at the end." Ryan likes the idea of the Astros facing the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, should Houston get past Atlanta and should St. Louis capitalize on its 2-0 advantage over the Dodgers. "They played the Cardinals well here, mainly here [at Minute Maid Park]," Ryan said. "If it gets to that point, I'd feel good about it." Ryan also has no worries about Clemens pitching on short rest Sunday. "Roger's such a unique individual, that the competitor that he is, to me that's not a factor," Ryan said. "When it's time for the big game, he'll be ready for it. That's just the nature of his competitiveness and his experience. He'll be ready."
Stay the course: Although Craig Biggio struggled offensively in the first two games of the Division Series, manager Phil Garner has no intention of leaving the 17-year veteran out of the starting lineup anytime soon."I think that Biggio's 2,600 hits speak for themselves," Garner said. "He may be struggling a day or two, but I think he's going to do something that's going to help us along the way." Biggio had one hit in eight at-bats entering Saturday's game, but it was his poor record against Rockies left-hander Shawn Estes, not against the Braves, that caused Garner to lose sleep. The night before the second-to-last game of the regular season, with Wild Card implications on the line, Garner struggled to decide whether or not he should bench Biggio that game. Instead, Garner put Biggio in the lineup and challenged his left fielder to reverse his fortunes against the Colorado pitcher. "He ended up hitting two home runs that day off Estes," Garner said. "You never know what's going to happen. Today's probably going to be the day."
Hairy situation: Remember that foot-long beard Jeff Bagwell grew during the 1999-2000 offseason? If things go well for the Astros this month, we may see that ill-advised fashion statement reemerge, albeit in a smaller dose.Brad Ausmus and Bagwell haven't shaved since the Astros clinched the Wild Card, and they're keeping the scruffy look until this thing is over. "NHL hockey players don't shave through the playoffs," Ausmus said. "Since they're locked out, we're doing it. You do it until the end." Hook 'em: Clemens, a University of Texas alum, proudly wore his Texas baseball cap Saturday morning, hoping it would bring a bit of luck to his Longhorn football team. No. 5 Texas was slated to play No. 2 Oklahoma around the same time Game 3 of the Division Series between the Astros and Braves began early Saturday. "I've got my fingers crossed and both my toes crossed, too," Clemens said. Braves Game 3 starter Russ Ortiz, an Oklahoma alum, was asked where his OU hat was during his pregame press conference. "I thought about bringing it," he said with a laugh. "I was really close to taking it along, but since the game time was pretty much the same as the OU-Texas game, I didn't figure I'd have much time to wear it. So now, I'm regretting that decision."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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