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Braves squeeze out win in Houston

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez hit all the talking points late Tuesday night after the Braves squeezed out a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, from the veteran moxie of right-hander Aaron Harang, the resilience of his bullpen, and the welcome power surge from the Upton brothers.

Harang rebounded from a sluggish start by limiting the Astros to two runs over six solid innings before his bullpen protected a one-run lead despite dealing with five baserunners over the final three frames.

Right-handers Anthony Varvaro and Jordan Walden each surrendered a hit and a walk in advance of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who recorded his 22nd save by working around a one-out error by second baseman Ramiro Pena in the ninth. The Astros (33-45) stranded 10 baserunners total, seven after clawing to within one run in the fourth.

It was Harang who set a gritty tone after righting his wayward ship.

"The first three or four innings it didn't look like he had the command that he finished the game with," Gonzalez said of Harang. "Pitchers struggle sometimes, whether it's mechanically or just the feel for it. He didn't panic the first four innings and then the fifth and sixth innings he was really, really sharp."

After allowing a run-scoring hit in the fourth, Harang (6-6) retired the final seven batters he faced. The Braves (39-37) didn't mount a threat against the Houston bullpen, but their early offense proved sufficient and provided Harang the slightest of cushions, one he made stand.

"We had our chances," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "We just were not able to get the big hit. We ran the bases well, we got guys on, but at the end of the day, you have to find a way to drive them in. We were not able to do that tonight, and that was the difference in the ballgame."

The shuffled Atlanta lineup, with center fielder B.J. Upton leading off for the first time this season, responded to a 1-0 deficit by scoring in three consecutive innings against Astros right-hander Scott Feldman (3-5), with the Braves' gifted, inconsistent outfielders solely responsible.

Braves right-fielder Jason Heyward tripled to right-center field with one out in the second inning and scored two batters later when third baseman Chris Johnson delivered a run-scoring double to the same gap.

Leading off the third inning, B.J. Upton timed a 2-2 Feldman curveball and golfed the pitch into the Crawford Boxes in left field for a home run, pushing Atlanta to a 2-1 lead. Justin Upton delivered with two outs in the fourth, crushing a 1-0 Feldman cutter 412 feet to left-center field.

The Upton brothers homered in the same game as teammates for the fourth time, matching the major league record for siblings held by Jason and Jeremy Giambi and Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero.

"Both of those runs were big for us and it ended up being the deciding factor," Justin Upton said. "It's always special when we homer in the same night, but for it to get us the win too it was really nice."

Justin Upton struck a more impressive blast than his older brother, but it paled in comparison to the 441-foot shot Astros right fielder George Springer launched to straightaway center field in the first inning.

The Astros cut the deficit to 3-2 in the fourth when shortstop Jonathan Villar delivered an RBI single off Harang, scoring catcher Jason Castro.

"I made a couple mistakes there early," Feldman said. "Hung a curveball to B.J. and then to Justin. It was a good night for the Uptons, I guess. I made a couple mistakes to those guys, and they did some damage."

NOTES: The Braves and Astros had two prospects apiece named to the All-Star Futures Game next month. C Christian Bethancourt, the Braves' No. 2 prospect, was named to the World roster for a third time while 2B Jose Peraza, the Braves' No. 3 prospect, earned his first Futures Game selection. The Astros' top prospect, SS Carlos Correa, was tabbed for a second consecutive season and was honored along with Triple-A OF Domingo Santana, the Astros' No. 7 prospect. Correa will not participate after suffering a serious leg injury last Saturday night with High Class A Lancaster. ... The Astros will move RHP Jake Buchanan to the bullpen, where he will serve as their long reliever. Buchanan took the loss in his major league debut last Saturday at Tampa Bay starting in place of RHP Brad Peacock (food poisoning). Peacock is slated to rejoin the rotation on Friday against Detroit. ... Braves RHP Gavin Floyd is scheduled for surgery Wednesday in New York for a fractured olecranon in his right elbow. Floyd was placed on the 15-day disabled list June 20. There is no timetable for his return.
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