On Saturday, the Braves will attempt to continue their dominance of the Astros at Turner Field when they play the middle game of their series.
The Braves (41-46) sent popular right fielder Jeff Francoeur to Double-A Mississippi on Friday after he went 4-for-41 in his last 12 games, including 1-for-19 during a five-game losing streak leading up to the move. Braves general manager Frank Wren called the decision the most difficult of his career, but claimed the club will recall Francoeur, who was hitting .234, after the All-Star break.
Atlanta responded by beating Houston 6-2 just hours later, ending its skid as Jason Perry hit an RBI triple in his first career at-bat playing in Francoeur’s place after having his contract purchased from Triple-A Richmond.
“We’ve had some tough times lately, it’s no secret,” said Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, who earned his ninth win Friday. “It’s easy to get down. We’ve just got to go out there and fight through it, get things going in the right direction.”
Atlanta might be able to do just that against last-place Houston (40-47), which has dropped four in a row.
The Braves are 9-2 in their last 11 home meetings with the Astros, hitting .316 while outscoring them 90-36.
Chipper Jones, who leads the majors with a .390 batting average, is hitting .338 (24-for-71) with four homers and 15 RBIs in his last 20 games against Houston. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Friday.
The Braves will turn to Jo-Jo Reyes (3-6, 4.15 ERA), who is looking to win for the first time in four starts. The second-year left-hander is 0-2 with a 3.31 ERA in his last three starts, but has received only two total runs of support.
Reyes was impressive Sunday, yielding one run and scattering six hits with five strikeouts in seven innings while his offense mustered only five hits in a 1-0 loss at Toronto.
“He’s pitched a lot of great ballgames,” Braves manager Bobby Cox told the team’s official Web site. “We just couldn’t get him the runs (Sunday).”
Reyes is 1-0 with a 5.59 ERA in two starts - both last season - against Houston.
The Astros are batting .217 with 11 runs during their four-game skid, scoring five times in the last three contests.
“We just can’t seem to score,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said after watching his team muster six hits on Friday.
Sampson began the season in the rotation, but was moved to the bullpen after going 3-3 with a 6.04 ERA in 10 starts. The right-hander, who hasn’t started since May 25, has been effective as a reliever, posting a 2.16 ERA without recording a decision in 13 appearances.
Sampson is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three games - two starts - against Atlanta, both losses coming at Turner Field.