Astros-Braves NLDS Probables10/03/2004 9:00 PM ET
By Mark Bowman and Jim Molony / MLB.com
Jaret Wright, RHP -- 15-8, 3.28 ERA
Wright is the latest in a long line of pitchers who have rejuvenated their careers in Atlanta. In his first full season as a starter since the 2000 campaign, the right-hander registered a career-high 15 wins and lost just three of his final 24 starts. He is 3-3 with a 6.86 ERA in nine career postseason appearances. He made four scoreless relief appearances for the Braves in last year's Division Series. His most memorable playoff experience came when at the age of 21, he was the Indians' starter in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
Mike Hampton, LHP -- 13-9, 4.28 ERA
Hampton finished the season strong for the second consecutive year. After winning just two of his first 15 starts, he proceeded to lose just one of the final 14 starts he made this season. The southpaw made two successful starts after tearing cartilage in his left knee on Sept. 11. His finest month came in July, when he was 5-0 with a 2.62 ERA. Opponents hit .254 against him after the All-Star break.
John Thomson, RHP -- 14-8, 3.72 ERA
Thomson proved to be the Braves' most reliable starting pitcher during the second half. The right-hander, who bettered the career-high 13-win total he registered with the Rangers last year, lost just one of his final 16 starts and posted a 1.36 ERA in five September starts. He possesses a much-improved curveball and a very effective sinker. Opponents hit just .241 against him after the All-Star break.
Roger Clemens, RHP -- 18-4, 2.98 ERA
Clemens was scratched from a scheduled start Sunday because of stomach flu but is expected to be ready and well rested for Wednesday's series opener. At 42, Clemens is still one of the best and is a savvy veteran with loads of playoff experience and an improved splitter that enabled him to forge the NL's best winning percentage. Clemens received a no-decision in his only start against the Braves this season, allowing one earned run in seven innings. Not counting his World Series win against the Braves in 1999, Clemens is 0-2 with a 4.67 ERA in three regular-season starts against Atlanta. He is 6-0 with a 3.79 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Roy Oswalt, RHP -- 20-10, 3.49 ERA
A 20-game winner for the first time, Oswalt is 12-3 with a 3.30 ERA since the break. Oswalt is 0-1 with a 5.09 ERA in four career games against Atlanta including a 7.36 ERA at Turner Field. Oswalt has a sharp speed difference between his fastball (93-97) and breaking stuff (68-78) that can give hitters fits. Oswalt really began to roll when he mastered the changeup, a pitch he rarely threw before this season. It has helped set up his other pitches and produced more ground ball outs and strikeouts.
Brandon Backe, RHP -- 5-3, 4.30 ERA
Backe throws his fastball in the 88-94 mph range, but his slider and curveball are much slower, ranging from 71 to 84. Backe has been much tougher at home, going 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA compared to 1-2 with a 6.52 on the road. Backe struggles when his control is off, as his stuff doesn't have a lot of movement. An excellent athlete, the former shortstop is the best hitting pitcher on the club and is above average defensively.
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