ATLANTA — Although five-time All-Star slugger Lance Berkman (sore left groin) and left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (back spasms) returned to action Saturday afternoon, the Atlanta Braves utilized an offensive explosion and the right arm of starter Tim Hudson to secure their second straight victory in a 10-1 rout of the Houston Astros.
Hudson (2-1) encored Tommy Hanson’s solid Friday night performance with 6 2/3 innings, allowing only one earned run on five hits with two walks and one strikeout to earn the victory.
The story once again for the Astros was their inability to generate any type of offensive production, especially against an Atlanta team that had previously dropped nine straight decisions (their longest losing streak in four years) entering the three-game weekend series at Turner Field.
Berkman managed to give the Astros an early 1-0 lead with an RBI groundout in the opening frame.
However, the Braves took the lead by putting two runs on the scoreboard in the third inning when Troy Glaus, who went 3-for-5 with four RBI, belted a two-run double to deep right, which scored Hudson and Martin Prado.
Glaus made his presence known again with an RBI single in the fifth, while Matt Diaz and catcher David Ross each knocked in a run, giving Atlanta a 5-1 lead.
That pretty much wrapped things up for Rodriguez, who allowed five runs (two earned) on 10 hits with one walk and five strikeouts in five innings. It didn’t get much better for the Astros bullpen, as Chris Sampson, Sammy Gervacio and Brian Moehler combined to give up five earned runs over three innings.
In the sixth inning, Glaus drove in his fourth run of the game with a single to score Omar Infante, putting the Braves up 6-1.
Atlanta officially put the dagger in the Astros with a four-run seventh, with young phenom slugger Jason Heyward drilling a solo homer into the left-center field bleachers. The 20-year-old Heyward has now homered in three straight games, giving him seven on the season.
Infante recorded an RBI single and Prado cracked a two-run double to cap off the Braves’ seventh inning.
Manager Bobby Cox indicated coming into the series that he wanted his offense to be more aggressive, and so far, his squad has responded to the challenge. The Braves compiled 15 hits Saturday, including three-hit performances by Glaus, Infante and Prado.
As for Houston, manager Brad Mills watched his struggling offense record only six hits (all singles), with Pedro Feliz, Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence combining to go a horrid 1-for-12 with three walks.
Mills continues to juggle the heart of the Astros’ lineup with the hope of generating some type of spark, this time keeping Feliz in the No. 3 spot for the second straight game, returning Berkman to the cleanup role, dropping Lee to No. 5 and batting Pence sixth.
After sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates last weekend, the Astros have now extended their losing streak to five games and will look to avoid getting swept for the second consecutive series Sunday afternoon when Bud Norris (1-2, 5.60 ERA) gets the start against Braves right-hander Derek Lowe (3-2, 5.79 ERA).
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