Braves-Diamondbacks Preview

ALAN FERGUSON
The Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves' lackluster start is quickly becoming a distant memory. The same could be said about the Arizona Diamondbacks' four consecutive wins to open the season.

While the Braves will seek their 10th win in 11 games Saturday night, the Diamondbacks hope to get another strong outing from Joe Saunders and avoid a fifth consecutive defeat.

Atlanta (9-5) has rebounded strongly since dropping its first four games, powered by a hitting resurgence. The Braves batted .165 and plated 10 runs during their 0-4 start, but are hitting .302 and averaging 7.4 runs over their last 10 games.

They've totaled 33 runs and 45 hits - 19 for extra bases - over their last three contests, including a 10-2 win in Thursday's opener of this four-game series at Chase Field.

Freddie Freeman went 3 for 4 with a pair of RBI doubles Friday night as Atlanta rolled to a 9-1 rout. Brian McCann added a two-run homer.

Freeman is 10 for 17 with five doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs over his last four games.

"Hitting's contagious," Freeman said, "and when people are getting hits, you want to go up there and knock them in. You don't want to lose those opportunities. Everybody feels good right now and everybody's taking advantage of it."

The Diamondbacks, 3-7 since their 4-0 start, will look to Saunders (1-0, 0.64 ERA) to help cool off the Braves. The left-hander helped his team earn its most recent victory, 5-1 over Pittsburgh on Monday, by allowing one run over seven innings.

Saunders is 1-0 with a 0.68 ERA in two career starts against the Braves, and he might need to be at least that good if Arizona's lineup doesn't start hitting.

The Diamondbacks have totaled eight runs and batted .194 over their last four games. Not helping matters, Chris Young (shoulder), Stephen Drew (ankle) and Justin Upton (thumb) are all battling injuries.

"(Atlanta is) playing well,'' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "We aren't playing so well right now, but we will be."

Braves probable starter Tommy Hanson (1-2, 3.71) faltered in the latter stages of his most recent start. The right-hander had allowed two runs or fewer in each of his first two outings, then yielded one over the first five innings Monday against the New York Mets.

The Mets scored four runs over the following two frames en route to a 6-1 victory.

Hanson is 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA in three career outings against Arizona (7-7). The most recent came June 10, 2010, at Chase Field. He gave up two runs over 5 1-3 innings and struck out 10 but did not get a decision in the Braves' 11-7 victory.

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