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10/02/05 8:00 PM ET

Astros-Braves: Pitching analysis

Houston, Atlanta top threes match up well

  Houston Astros

 Andy Pettitte LHP
In one of the more remarkable comebacks of the season, Pettitte's 2.39 ERA is nearly a run and a half lower than his ERA in 1996, when he won a career-high 21 games. He has been one of baseball's most dominant starters since the All-Star break, going 11-2 with a 1.72 ERA in 15 games, including a 4-0 record and 1.99 ERA in September. Pettitte is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA against the Braves this year in one start at Turner Field on May 7. Pettitte admits that the elbow pain that necessitated offseason surgery has made him a better pitcher as he has had to concentrate more on location and rely less on velocity. He has allowed three or fewer runs in 28 of 30 starts.
Pitches: Fastball, cut fastball, sinker, changeup
Speed: 82-94 mph

 Roger Clemens RHP
The Major League leader in ERA, the 43-year-old Clemens has had another incredible season. He leads the Majors in ERA on the road (1.32), batting average against (.188) and had a scoreless string on the road of 25 straight innings before it was snapped by Milwaukee on Aug. 18. Clemens has been victimized by shaky run support -- the Astros have been shut out 16 times this year and scored a total of 99 runs in Clemens' first 29 starts -- but the seven-time Cy Young Award winner was not as sharp in September as he was before. Part of the problem could have been a balky back or a hamstring that caused him to miss a Sept. 22 start, but overall, Clemens has once again been superb.
Pitches: Four- and two-seam fastball, split-finger fastball, slider, changeup
Speed: 84-96 mph

 Roy Oswalt RHP
On most teams, a 2.86 ERA would lead the rotation, but that number is a distant third on the Houston staff. That's more an indication of the depth of the rotation than of the performance of 19-game winner Oswalt. The right-hander is only 7-5 since the All-Star break, but he's 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in September. Oswalt has some of the bigger speed differences between pitches that you will see. He throws his fastball usually between 93 and 97 miles per hour, and his breaking stuff typically moves at 68 to 78. The changeup he mastered last year has been extremely effective again for this workhorse, who leads the staff and is among the league leaders with 235 innings pitched.
Pitches: Fastball, curveball, cutter, changeup
Speed: 68-97 mph

  Atlanta Braves

 John Smoltz RHP
The former closer made a seamless transition back to the rotation and was a big reason the Braves were able to nail down their 14th consecutive division title. The 38-year-old still possesses one of the best sliders around and uses his very effectively in combination with a high-90s fastball and occasional changeup. Smoltz beat the Astros in his only start against them this season, holding Houston to a run on two hits in five innings on May 6. Smoltz has gone seven innings or more in seven of his last nine starts and has allowed three earned runs or less six times during that span. Only five of the 18 homers he allowed this year came at Turner Field.
Pitches: Fastball, slider, changeup
Speed: 86-98 mph

 Tim Hudson RHP
Hudson stumbled in June but has been efficient in just about every start since then, and is 8-4 with a 3.30 ERA since the break. He's only faced Houston once this season, and though he didn't get the win, it was no fault of Hudson's, as he pitched nine scoreless innings and gave up just four hits, walked one and struck out nine. In 16 career innings against the Astros, Hudson has allowed only one earned run for a 0.56 ERA. Hudson has a fine fastball, but it's the splitter that really befuddles hitters, especially right-handers. An intense competitor, Hudson rarely gives in or beats himself.
Pitches: Fastball, split-fingered fastball, changeup, slider
Speed: 87-93 mph

 Jorge Sosa RHP
Like Houston's Brandon Backe, Sosa is a former Tampa Bay Devil Rays position player who made a successful conversion to pitcher. Sosa has been Atlanta's most successful starter in the second half, going 9-2 with a 2.32 ERA, including 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in September. He is 9-0 with a 1.82 ERA on the road this season. The key to Sosa's breakout year has been consistency. He's always had the plus arm, but until this season he hasn't been able to harness his pitches consistently enough to get ahead in the count, and hitters would sit on his fastball. His newfound control has resulted in an ERA that's nearly three runs lower than it was last season (5.53 then compared to 2.56 now).
Pitches: Fastball, changeup, slider
Speed: 92-98 mph

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.