ATLANTA - If Game 1 of the National League Division Series is indicative of what is to come, this might well be another cruel autumn for the Atlanta Braves.
A team that has traditionally regarded a trip to the postseason as its prerogative placed its October prospects in instant peril with a 9-3 loss to Roger Clemens and the sizzling Houston Astros in Wednesday afternoon's opener of the best-of-five series at Turner Field.
Advantage Astros, who will send 20-game winner Roy Oswalt to the mound this afternoon in Game 2 against an injured Mike Hampton.
"It's no secret we've got to get it tomorrow," second baseman Marcus Giles said. "We've got to win three out of the next four and we've done that plenty of times this season. I don't know if it's fair or not to call tomorrow a must-win, but it is."
There was one ominous note for the Braves. Third baseman Chipper Jones, who was hit on his right hand by Carlos Zambrano's fastball last Saturday, landed on his sore hand while diving for Morgan Ensberg's smash in the fifth and was uncertain whether he'd play today.
"The more and more I swing, the more sore it gets," he said.
Jaret Wright gave up six runs on eight hits, including home runs to Lance Berkman, Brad Ausmus, and Carlos Beltran, in 4q innings.
It was the first time he had surrendered three home runs in a start all season and just the fourth time in his career.
The Braves managed only six hits in seven innings against Clemens. After scoring a run against the future Hall of Famer in the first, they didn't cross home plate again until Andruw Jones hit a home run in the fifth with the Astros ahead 7-1.
Reach Bill Zack at firstname.lastname@example.org.