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Braves-Astros Preview

AP - Sports

Chipper Jones has never experienced a start like this on the Atlanta Braves.

The 39-year-old third baseman expects to have a say in ending it, but the Houston Astros are looking to keep their own run going.

Jones will make his 2012 debut Tuesday night as the Braves get a fifth chance at victory No. 1 when they face the surprisingly hot Astros.

Atlanta (0-4) has lost its first four games for the first time since an 0-10 start to 1988, five years before Jones made his major league debut.

The seven-time All-Star will get his chance to keep the current slide from continuing, as he will play for the first time this season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

"It's progressively gotten better and while I've had some sore days along the way, I feel great," Jones said. "I did what I had to do to prove that I can go out there (Tuesday)."

Jones, who hit .275 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs last year, has already announced that this season will be his last.

He was reduced to a spectator's role Monday, when the Braves blew a three-run, third-inning lead and committed four errors to fall 8-3 to the Astros (3-1) in the opener of this three-game set in Houston. Juan Francisco, filling in at third for Jones, made two of the errors with the second leading to the Astros' three-run bottom of the third.

Atlanta has dropped nine straight games dating to last season, when it went 8-18 down the stretch to relinquish the NL Wild Card spot to eventual World Series champion St. Louis.

The Braves will give the ball to Tommy Hanson (0-1, 1.80 ERA), who could use some help from the offense in order to rebound from a hard-luck loss in Thursday's season opener. The right-hander yielded one run and four hits in five innings, but the bats mustered just four hits in a 1-0 defeat to the New York Mets.

Hanson is scheduled to take his regular turn in the rotation despite being limited to 83 pitches against the Mets as he tries to put a right rotator cuff injury behind him.

"We wanted him to go on his normal day," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Braves' official website. "But we were waiting to hear from him, because it's different than pitching in spring training. You've got the opening day jitters and all of that. But he said, 'I'm not even sore.'"

Hanson has dominated the Astros, going 3-0 with a 0.97 ERA in five career starts while striking out 42 in 37 innings. He was outstanding in his most recent visit to Houston on June 12, fanning 14 while limiting the Astros to one run and three hits in seven innings of a 4-1 victory.

The Astros may present a tougher test now, as they went 5 for 7 with runners in scoring position Monday to raise their season average to .394 in RBI situations.

"We'd like to keep going and build off of it and try to build some momentum if we can," said J.A. Happ, Monday's winning starter.

Kyle Weiland will make his debut for Houston, which acquired him from Boston in December along with second baseman Jed Lowrie for right-hander Mark Melancon.

Weiland went 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in seven games - five starts - in his first major league action with the Red Sox last season. The 25-year-old right-hander earned a spot in the Astros' rotation after going 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA in seven spring training appearances including four starts.

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