Braves-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

Chipper Jones wasted little time making an impression in his first game of 2012, helping his Atlanta Braves win their first game of the season.

That may not be a surprise given his success against the Houston Astros in recent years.

Jones looks to build off his solid season debut when the Braves and Astros conclude their three-game series Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.

Two weeks before his 40th birthday, Jones came off the disabled list and went 2 for 4 with a two-run homer to help Atlanta beat Houston 6-4 on Tuesday.

The Braves (1-4) became the last team in the NL to win a game on the young season, and manager Fredi Gonzalez was happy to see his slugger back in the lineup.

''I think today he won our game singlehandedly, really,'' Gonzalez said.

Jones, who announced this would be his last season during spring training, missed the first four games after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

He's hitting .444 with two homers, four doubles and five RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak against the Astros (3-2), who had won three in a row.

''I'm not going to say I was the spark,'' Jones said. ''Obviously, the two-run homer was a big lift, but I'd much rather be a calming influence, have (teammates) look down there, see me and know that I'm going to put up some good at-bats and hopefully make the play when it's hit to me. And if they feed off that, great.''

Astros manager Brad Mills said the Braves are more dangerous with Jones in the lineup.

''He had a big night, but even if he doesn't have that big night, it just spreads out that lineup a little bit and definitely gives them a little more weaponry,'' Mills said.

Jones is 5 for 20 with two homers, a triple and five walks lifetime against Wandy Rodriguez, who will take the mound for Houston in his second start.

Rodriguez allowed six hits and three unearned runs in 6 1-3 innings in his opening-day start against Colorado Friday before the Astros fell 5-3. He hasn't allowed a run in 14 innings over his last two starts against the Braves, winning the most recent outing 8-3 on June 13.

The left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five career starts versus Atlanta at Minute Maid Park.

Rodriguez will be opposed by Randall Delgado, who will be making his first start of the season after going 1-1 with a 2.83 ERA in seven starts for the Braves as a rookie in 2011. The right-hander didn't allow more than three earned runs in any of his outings.

Houston will look to take its second straight series to open the season after setting a franchise record with 106 losses in 2011. The Astros didn't win their second series last season until April 29-May 1 against Milwaukee in the 28th game of the year.

Carlos Lee went 3 for 3 with two RBIs Tuesday and is 9 for 18 with six RBIs in his last five games against Atlanta.

The Braves have won six of the last eight meetings in Houston and seven of 10 overall.