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NLDS shifts to Houston, all tied up

NLDS shifts to Houston, all tied up

ATLANTA -- They matched aces and traded blowouts at Turner Field, now the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros take their tied-up National League Division Series on to Houston for two more games.

"We're glad to be going home. It's going to be packed and it will be loud. I'm looking forward to that," Houston starter Roger Clemens said after taking the loss Thursday night in Game 2. "That's what we play for, the excitement of these situations. I tell you what, it's sure a great deal of fun, what I've been through the last month, and to keep my mind off other things, it sure is fun."

Clemens was bested by John Smoltz as the Braves evened the series with a 7-1 victory Thursday in Atlanta. Houston left-hander Andy Pettitte outpitched Tim Hudson as the Astros took the series opener, 10-5, on Wednesday.

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As a result, it has become a best-of-three series, and the Astros have the home-field advantage. One thing hasn't changed: For the third straight game, two outstanding starting pitchers will face each other.

Atlanta right-hander Jorge Sosa, 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA during the regular season, gets his first starting assignment of the postseason against Houston right-hander Roy Oswalt, 20-12 with a 2.94 mark.

"We're going to need to go in there and give Jorge an early lead like I had here tonight," Smoltz said. "They are going to be loud there, just like it was loud here."

Turner Field is more of a pitchers' park than Houston's Minute Maid Park, which makes you wonder what's in store for the next two games after what happened here.

At Turner, the two offenses were better than expected -- though much of the output came against the bullpens -- as the Braves barely outscored the Astros, 12-11. The Braves are hitting .312, compared to .292 for Houston. Atlanta's team ERA for the series is 5.50 compared to 6.35 for Houston.

Minute Maid, with its short left-field fence only 315 feet away, could help hitters on both teams.

"At that park, either team is capable of putting up some runs," Atlanta's Chipper Jones said.

For Sosa, it will be his first career postseason start. Oswalt is 1-0 with a 4.19 ERA in four career playoff appearances. Oswalt has never beaten the Braves and is 0-2 with a 6.41 ERA in five games against Atlanta, including 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA in one start this season.

Game 3 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, though first pitch is not expected until 7:05 p.m. CT.

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

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