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Thomson not intimidated by streak
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10/08/2004 5:57 PM ET
Thomson not intimidated by streak
Astros' home success doesn't faze veteran righty
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
John Thomson throws in the outfield during Friday afternoon's workout at Minute Maid Park in Houston. (David J. Phillip/AP)

HOUSTON -- John Thomson and the Braves are out to beat the streak.

Thomson, Atlanta's Game 3 Division Series starter, is aware of the imposing task that awaits him on Saturday afternoon.

The Wild Card-winning Astros have won 18 straight at Minute Maid Park since dropping an 11-6 decision to the Cubs on Aug. 22.

Thomson aims to put an end to the Astros' dominance at home while giving the Braves the advantage in the best-of-five series. The clubs split at Turner Field in Atlanta, and the next two games are set to be played in a ballpark where the Astros haven't lost in six weeks.

"As they say, streaks are made to be broken," Thomson said before the Braves' workout Friday. "That's what I'm kind of looking for tomorrow afternoon. Just going out there and not worrying about what they've done in the past. I've heard over the last two or three days that the postseason is basically a different season. Sometimes it carries over and sometimes it doesn't. Hopefully, tomorrow it doesn't carry over for them in their home ballpark."

Overcoming tall odds is nothing new for Thomson, who has become yet another success story in Atlanta. After going 13-14 with the Rangers in 2003, Thomson was a pleasant free agent pickup last December.

He essentially picked up the spot in the rotation created when Greg Maddux moved on through free agency, ending up with the Cubs.

Making an immediate impact, Thomson went 14-8 with a 3.72 ERA, while logging 198 1/3 innings. He established a career high for victories, and for much of the second half he put together his own respectable streak. Thomson has won five straight decisions, last losing on Aug. 15 to the Cardinals. And since a July loss to Curt Schilling and the Red Sox, he is 8-1.

Thomson has pitched better on the road, going 7-4 with a 3.46 ERA in visiting parks. At home, he was 7-4 with a 4.03 ERA.

Well Grounded
Best regular-season ratios of ground outs to fly outs among starters currently in the playoffs
Rank Pitcher Team Ratio
1. Derek Lowe Boston 3.36
2. Jason Marquis St. Louis 2.05
3. Matt Morris St. Louis 1.86
4. Odalis Perez Los Angeles 1.83
5. Chris Carpenter St. Louis 1.74
6. Mike Hampton Atlanta 1.62
7. Carlos Silva Minnesota 1.60
8. Jose Lima Los Angeles 1.48
9. Jon Lieber NY Yankees 1.46
10. John Thomson Atlanta 1.44

As dependable as Thomson has been in his first season with the Braves, durability is a question mark for his start on Saturday.

In his final regular-season start, on Oct. 2 at the Cubs, he left the game after three innings with a left oblique strain.

Some discomfort lingers, and on Friday he took some swings to see if his left side bothers him during at-bats. On Thursday at Turner Field, Thomson showed enough in a bullpen session to get the starting nod in a crucial playoff game.

"Thomson is fine," manager Bobby Cox said. "He had a side session the other day and did very well with it. So we have confidence in him that he will be 100 percent."

Ailments are impairing several Braves starters in the postseason. Jaret Wright has taken comeback shots off both legs. Mike Hampton is lumbering along with torn cartilage in his knee, and he developed some forearm stiffness in his start on Thursday.

   John Thomson  /   P
Born: 10/01/73
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Now, Thomson is pushing through the pain to keep the Braves on course to advance.

"It feels a lot better than it did a couple of days ago," Thomson said. "I threw off the side yesterday and got as close to game speed as I could. I felt fine."

In a park like Minute Maid, where runs can be scored in bunches, the Braves are counting on Thomson to deliver his share of groundball outs. The right-hander commands a 93 mph fastball and mixes in curveballs and a sinker.

Considering he's played in cozy hitters' parks like Colorado and Texas, there won't be much new for him taking on the Astros in Minute Maid.

"I've played in Colorado for five years, and that's probably the worst pitchers' park there is," Thomson said. "And last year I pitched in Texas, and that's probably the worst pitchers' park in the American League. Watching [Houston] hit, I know they like to pull the ball a lot. It seems that way. They try to pull the ball. Maybe I'll try to make them hit toward center field. That's about the only thing I can see myself doing here as opposed to pitching in Turner Field."

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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