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Game balls: Rating Game 1
10/06/2004 7:41 PM ET
MLB.com is awarding "game balls" -- or, in this case, cowboy boots -- as the boys from Houston so often wear -- and peaches -- in honor of Georgia's favorite fruit -- for performances in this year's National League Division Series. Here's a look at the Astros' 9-3 win in Game 1.

Five cowboy boots: Freshly shined and a perfect fit, ready for some serious two-stepping
Four cowboy boots: The first choice for a night on the town
Three cowboy boots: A few scuff marks, but no one will notice
Two cowboy boots: Showing serious signs of wear
One cowboy boot: Somebody stepped in something

Astros

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Carlos Beltran: Even if this spectacular player had a quiet regular season with Houston (he did plenty), he made Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker look like a genius with a brilliant Game 1. He went 3-for-3 with a homer, scored two runs and stole a base in his first career postseason appearance. He left after getting hit by a pitch in the sixth, and the Astros hope it isn't serious.

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Roger Clemens: Recovering from a stomach virus that kept him out of Sunday's regular-season finale, The Rocket had plenty of fuel stored. Taking the first step toward bringing a World Series championship to his home state, Clemens tossed 117 pitches in seven innings and overcame six walks. For his career, the 42-year-old had never won a Game 1 start in any series entering the start. Think Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was watching?

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Lance Berkman and Brad Ausmus: Berkman's bobble and a passed ball by Ausmus allowed the speedy Marcus Giles to reach base, then get into scoring position to give Atlanta a first-inning lead. Both atoned with homers in the third off Jaret Wright, putting Houston on top for good.

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Jose Vizcaino: Though he's in there for his veteran leadership and defense, Vizcaino went 0-for-4 and stranded three runners on base.

Braves
Five peaches: Warm slice of delicious pie, a la mode
Four peaches: A tasty cobbler
Three peaches: Juicy and refreshing
Two peaches: Mom packed this instead of a candy bar?
One peach: The last piece of fruit from the bottom of the bin

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Johnny Estrada: It got lost in a Houston runaway win, but the All-Star catcher gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead off the future Hall of Famer Clemens by again cashing in a runner in scoring position. Estrada, who hit .338 with runners in scoring position during the regular season, lofted a sacrifice fly.

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Marcus Giles: Reaching on an error in the first inning, Giles took advantage by stealing second, then advancing to third on a passed ball. The early run he scored was symbolic, showing Clemens that the Braves could take advantage of an opportunity.

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Jaret Wright: During the regular season, the 15-game winner returned to the form that made him a postseason star with the Indians in 1997. But he looked anything but sharp in the opener, surrendering three of Houston's four homers. Atlanta needed a strong start from Wright to spare a suspect bullpen, but the right-hander couldn't make it out of the fifth inning.

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Chipper Jones: The Braves veteran meekly went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and stranded three runners. If he can't do better than that, Atlanta won't be around much longer.

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


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