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Game balls: Rating Game 3
10/09/2004 5:35 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' 8-5 win in Game 3.

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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Brandon Backe: In his first postseason start, the local kid from Galveston, Texas, put the Braves a game away from elimination -- putting their Backes against the wall, if you will. The right-hander tossed six strong innings, allowing two runs, and made big pitches when needed. His afternoon erased Rafael Furcal's heroics on Thursday, and gave fellow Texan Roger Clemens the opportunity to pitch the Astros to the series win on Sunday.

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Carlos Beltran: Plunked in the ribs in Game 1, Beltran played through the pain in Game 2 and rested on Friday's day off. He returned with a vengeance on Saturday, doubling in the first, and homering in the third to give Houston a 2-0 lead.

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Jeff Kent: With his second hit of the series, Jeff Kent turned a harmless inning into a two-run uprising for Houston, giving his team the lead for good. His double scored Lance Berkman, who had walked, then Kent scored on a Morgan Ensberg single, thanks to an elusive headfirst slide into home.

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Morgan Ensberg: An inning after singling in Kent, Ensberg turned a three-run lead into a five-run lead with a two-out double in the sixth. The runs mattered, as Andruw Jones and the Braves mounted a comeback.

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Brad Lidge: By pitching a perfect ninth inning, Lidge didn't allow any continued momentum after the Braves scored three in the eighth.

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Russ Springer: The veteran made things a bit hairy by allowing a three-run homer to a hot Jones, pulling Atlanta within three. Though his team held on for the win, the homer supplied the Braves with a dose of confidence that might wake them up.

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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Andruw Jones: The Braves' toughest out, Jones launched one deep to left in the eighth, a three-run poke that brought his team within three runs. It was his second homer of the series, and fourth run batted in. Jones also doubled and scored Atlanta's first run in the fourth. Should the Braves fall here, it can't be pinned on the perennial All-Star.

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Paul Byrd: The veteran right-hander entered because of an injury to starter John Thomson, and lasted into the fifth. He allowed four runs and 10 baserunners in 4 1/3 innings, and helped himself by singling in the tying run with two outs in the fourth.

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Johnny Estrada: Estrada's opposite-field solo homer with one out in the fourth put Atlanta on the board.

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John Thomson: A lingering left oblique injury that plagued the right-hander resurfaced four pitches into his Game 3 outing, and forced him from the game. It was a horrible omen for a 14-game winner who went 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his final six starts of the season.

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Chipper Jones: The Braves veteran has been invisible, sinking to 0-for-11 in the series.

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


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