(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Braves have used the best home record in baseball to climb atop the National League East standings, but an inability to win on the road could cost them a chance at the playoffs.
Atlanta, losers of eight of their last 11 as the guest, will try to snap the Houston Astros' home winning streak at six games and even a three-game series this evening at Minute Maid Park.
The Braves came to town fresh off a 5-2 homestand and with a two-game lead over Philadelphia for first place in the NL East. However, a 10-4 setback last night shaved that edge by a half-game over the idle Phillies and dropped Atlanta to just 25-33 on the road, compared to 38-15 as the host.
Atlanta committed three errors in last night's loss, including two during a six-run seventh inning for Houston.Brian McCann had a go-ahead two-run homer for the Braves in the sixth frame, but his throwing error in the seventh allowed two runs to score.
The Braves, who have lost three in a row on the road, got a decent outing from Mike Minor in his MLB debut. The seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft allowed four runs -- three earned -- on five hits over six innings.
"I don't think [Minor] was nervous, he didn't appear that way," said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox. "He had great mound presence and he made some pitches when he had to. He gave up a couple bloopers in the third inning that hurt. Then we gave up a ton of bloopers in the seventh inning that hurt."
One bright spot for the Braves was Omar Infante, who extended his hitting streak to a career high-tying 12 straight games. He his 20-for-53 over the run for a .377 average.
Chris Johnson highlighted Houston's big frame with a two-run single and drove in three runs in all while scoring twice for the Astros, who snapped a four- game slide both overall and to the Braves. They were swept in three games in Atlanta from April 30-May 2, getting outscored 21-4.
Carlos Lee had two hits, drove in a pair and scored twice in the win.
"It's nice to see the guys run the bases like they did, aggressively and putting pressure on (the other team)," said Houston manager Brad Mills.
Mills will go tonight with J.A. Happ, who makes his third start since being acquired from Philadelphia as part of a package that sent Roy Oswalt to the Phillies.
Happ was excellent in his Houston debut on July 30, hurling six shutout innings in a victory over the Brewers. However, the 27-year-old was hammered for a career-high seven runs on six hits and walked three while recording just three outs in a loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday.
"He just didn't seem like he was able to make adjustments," Mills said. "He did a great job doing that last time, and that wasn't the case [Wednesday]. He just wasn't able to make those adjustments and get him back down in the zone."
The 27-year-old is 2-1 with a 4.03 ERA in five starts this year and 2-0 with a 2.23 ERA in six career games versus the Braves, five of those starts.
Atlanta counters with Jair Jurrjens, who after allowing a total of nine runs in rough back-to-back road outings, returned to the win column on Thursday with six innings of two-run ball versus San Francisco. The 24-year-old gave up seven hits and walked three while improving to 4-4 with a 4.48 ERA on the year.
Jurrjens has yet to win on the road in 2010, having gone 0-4 with a 7.63 ERA. He has also made just one career start versus Houston, allowing a run on four hits over two innings on May 2 of last year. The 24-year-old got a no-decision after exiting early due to a rain delay.