With half of his regulars out with injuries, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox is left with few options.
Cox will try to guide his injury-depleted team to just its third win in eight games when it opens a three-game series against the visiting Houston Astros.
The Braves opened their six-game homestand by dropping two of three to San Diego.
In Thursday’s 7-3 loss, J.D. Drew, Marcus Giles and Rafael Furcal all sat out with various injuries, and left fielder Chipper Jones was still on the disabled list with a partially torn hamstring. Jones, however, will be activated for Friday’s game.
Giles was hit in the left arm by a pitch Wednesday. X-rays were negative, but he was very sore, and could hardly bend the arm.
Furcal has missed four straight games with a jammed finger on his throwing hand, and Drew missed his third straight with a stiff neck.
As a result, Cox had to get creative with his lineup card.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Atlanta catcher Johnny Estrada, referring to the injured players. “They could go 0-for-4, but just having the presence of them in our lineup makes everyone else better.
“The guys who’ve stepped in their place have been battling. But we just put ourselves in a hole early and I think some guys start pressing.”
The Astros, who have a two-game lead over the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, have won seven of their last eight.