(Sports Network) – The Atlanta Braves try to close out a successful homestand when they take on the Houston Astros this afternoon in the finale of a two- game series at Turner Field.
Atlanta has won three in a row and improved to 4-3 on an eight-game residency with Monday’s 3-2 victory over the Astros behind Eric Hinske’s RBI single that scored Nate McLouth in the bottom of the seventh inning. Hinske had a game- high three hits and Joe Mather collected two hits and a pair of RBI for the Braves, who are 11-4 this month and 2 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for first place in the NL East.
Tommy Hanson picked up his fifth win of the season (5-3) with seven solid innings, as he allowed two runs — one earned — and three hits with 10 strikeouts. Eric O’Flaherty struck out two in the eighth and Craig Kimbrel posted three K’s and allowed a hit for his 11th save in the ninth.
“It’s good to keep rolling,” said Hanson. “Hopefully we can go out tomorrow and pull out another win.”
Derek Lowe gets the nod for the Braves this afternoon and is 3-3 with a 3.73 ERA in nine starts. Lowe did not record a decision in last Thursday’s 6-5 victory over Washington and was reached for five runs on five hits through six innings of work.
Lowe, who is 1-0 in his last four outings, will face Houston for the 11th time in his career and is 5-3 with a 3.43 ERA through the first 10 starts.
Atlanta hopes to have young right fielder Jason Heyward back in the lineup tonight and he has missed six straight starts because of inflammation in his right shoulder. The All-Star has pounded Houston pitching in his brief career, hitting .429 with three homers and seven RBI in five career games against the Astros. Braves veteran Chipper Jones could also return to the lineup after he’s missed consecutive games with a small tear in his right knee.
Houston opened a seven-game road trip with last night’s loss and wasted a decent outing from Brett Myers, who threw six innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts and three walks. Fernando Abad was dealt the loss for allowing the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Matt Downs homered and finished with two, while Carlos Lee extended his hitting streak to 10 games with two hits and an RBI.
“Hanson threw some good pitches, man. He’s got good stuff,” said Downs. “I just got a couple balls up in the zone and put some good swings on them.”
The Astros have lost nine of their last 12 games and will hand the ball to Wandy Rodriguez Tuesday. Rodriguez is 2-3 with a 3.98 earned run average in eight starts this season and did not record a decision the previous time out in a 4-3 win over Cincinnati last Wednesday. The lefty tossed seven innings and allowed three runs on 10 hits with four K’s and no walks.
Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 4.21 ERA in nine career games (8 starts) against the Braves.
Atlanta won five of six meetings with Houston a year ago.