ATLANTA -- Facing the imposing Astros lineup can be a pain in the neck. So it didn't make matters any easier that Braves right-hander Jaret Wright took on the task with two aching legs.
A tough day got even worse in the fourth inning on Wednesday afternoon, when Morgan Ensberg's comeback shot ricocheted off Wright's left shin.
If Wright feels like a marked man of late, it's because he is. In his last regular-season start, a no-decision against the Mets on Sept. 28, Wilson Delgado smacked a drive off his right foot.
Wright was lifted after 2 1/3 innings of that game, but in Game 1 of the National League Division Series with the Astros, the gritty right-hander was determined to battle on.
"When you get hit like that, it doesn't feel good," Wright said. "But nothing was going to keep me out of that game."
Wright played on, but overall it was a painful afternoon for the right-hander and the Braves. Powered by four home runs, the Astros rolled to a 9-3 victory to take an early edge in best-of-five series.
Wright, who was 15-8 in the regular season, was on the short end of a difficult loss. In 4 1/3 innings, he gave up six runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.
The Astros' firepower led to Wright being on the short end of an evening that belonged to Roger Clemens and the surging Astros.
Wright surrendered three home runs for the fourth time in his career, and second in the postseason. Brad Ausmus, Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman each took Wright deep, building a 6-1 lead by the time the Braves' starter left the game.
Wright allowed 11 home runs in the regular season, just twice allowing two in one game.
"We made a few mistakes," Wright said. "They were home runs. They didn't miss them, they hit them out of the park. I'm getting used to not giving up home runs, and giving up three was not good."
Wright came out strong, striking out three of the first six batters he faced. But in the third inning, the reliable right-hander ran into trouble, surrendering two home runs.
Jaret Wright / P
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Ausmus opened the inning with a blast to left, tying the score at 1-1.
"Jaret cruised the first two innings, but the leadoff home run by Ausmus seemed to wake them up," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said.
The Astros weren't done in the third. With two outs, Beltran slapped a single and scored on Jeff Bagwell's double to right-center. After Berkman's two-run bomb, the Braves found themselves down, 4-1.
If Wright's previous foot injury was an issue, the Braves aren't using it as an excuse.
"He made the one bad pitch to Berkman, the 2-0 pitch, he tried to go in and he came out over the plate," manager Bobby Cox said. "He was throwing great the first couple of innings. I don't think it's an issue."
In the fifth, Wright ran into more problems. Craig Biggio singled and stole second, bringing up Beltran. The switch-hitting center fielder deposited a two-run homer and the Astros were ahead, 6-1, as the ball was handed to reliever Kevin Gryboski.
Beltran gave the Braves fits all game, going 3-for-3 off Wright with a home run, stolen base and two runs scored.
"That guy is on fire right now," catcher Johnny Estrada said. "He's tough to get out."
"He's your top-of-the-line Major League hitter," Wright said. "You've got to make pitches on him. They've got a solid lineup."
Houston showed it has the explosiveness that rivals a slugging team like the Cardinals.
"I think they're pretty close [to the Cardinals]," Wright said. "You've got to be on your game when you face these guys."
And it doesn't help when your pitching with two bruised legs as Wright was for a while on Wednesday.
"[Wright] was pitching like he always does those first two innings," Estrada said. "He had that one bad inning [third] when he made some bad pitches and gave up that four-spot. That's tough for him. His last start, he lasts three innings and gets hit in the leg. Today, he gets hit in the other leg. He's going to battle out there and give us all he's got. That's tough to pitch with."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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