Freeman, Gonzalez power Braves past Astros 11-4

By Kristie Rieken

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 10 2011 10:40 p.m. MDT

Atlanta Braves' Alex Gonzalez, right, questions home plate umpire Rob Drake about a called strike in the first inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros Friday, June 10, 2011, in Houston.

Pat Sullivan, Associated Press

HOUSTON — Chipper Jones' previous trip to Houston ended with a serious knee injury that left his future in doubt.

It was clear in his return to the city that the 39-year-old slugger has plenty left in the tank.

Jones homered, drove in two runs and even had his first steal of the season as the Atlanta Braves pounded the Astros 11-4 on Friday night.

Freddie Freeman and Alex Gonzalez homered on back-to-back pitches during Atlanta's four-run third inning, helping the Braves score as many runs as they had in the previous five games combined.

Freeman's two-out, two-run shot off fellow rookie Aneury Rodriguez landed several rows up in the second deck in right field and gave Atlanta a 4-0 lead. Gonzalez sent the next pitch into the Crawford Boxes in left field.

Jones had three hits and Eric Hinske also homered for Atlanta, which tied its season high for runs in its fourth consecutive victory. Freeman and Gonzalez had three RBIs apiece.

Jones, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee fielding a ground ball last August against the Astros, wasn't quite ready to celebrate a triumphant return.

"We're not done yet," Jones said. "Until I get out of here healthy on the plane, I'm going to reserve my comments."

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez liked that Jones was able to have such a good game in a place that held bad memories for him.

"To come here and have that kind of night, I hope it keeps him going for a while, because we sure need him in the middle of the lineup," Gonzalez said. "Not that he wasn't hitting, but this was nice to see him driving the ball the other way."

Braves starter Tim Hudson (5-5) pitched six effective innings, yielding two runs and seven hits. He loved seeing the offense clicking and was especially impressed with Jones.

"He's looking pretty good," Hudson said. "The old battle ax is going out there and not looking his age."

While everyone raved about Jones, he gushed about the work Freeman and other young players have done in filling in for several injured Braves.

"I think tonight was a big win for us," he said. "We're starting to see some averages go up and some home run totals go up and some guys get some confidence. It's important for us to win ballgames right now while we've got so many people injured so that when we get them back we hopefully can continue to do so."

Matt Downs hit a two-run homer in the ninth for Houston, which has dropped six of seven. Michael Bourn had a triple and two doubles while tying a career high with four hits.

Rodriguez (0-4) lasted just four-plus innings and is winless in eight starts.

The Astros hurt themselves with poor defense in the third. First baseman Brett Wallace's error on Jones' two-out infield single allowed Dan Uggla to score.

Jones then picked up his stolen base before the homers by Freeman and Gonzalez.

"This is the second time this happens to me, that after an error they get me for three, four runs," Rodriguez said. "I don't know what's happening. I keep doing the same, throwing strikes."

Houston right fielder Hunter Pence singled in the third to extend his career-long hitting streak to 21 games — the longest current streak in the majors. But Pence left after the inning with tightness in his lower back and was replaced by Jason Michaels.

Pence said he expects to play on Saturday.

Freeman had an RBI single in the first, and Gonzalez added a two-run double in Atlanta's four-run fifth. Jones also had an RBI single in the fifth.

Houston closer Brandon Lyon surrendered Jones' homer in the eighth in his first appearance since May 4 after coming off the disabled list following Wednesday's game.

"It was good to get Lyon in the game, get some of the rust off him," Houston manager Brad Mills said.

Rodriguez gave up six runs and six hits. He struck out four and walked one.

NOTES: Houston purchased the contract of C Carlos Corporan from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned C Robinson Cancel to its top farm club. Corporan, who is scheduled to start on Saturday, had a pinch-hit single in the ninth. ... Gonzalez said OF Nate McLouth, on the disabled list with a strained muscle on his left side, is scheduled to play in a simulated game on Saturday in Florida. He'll face RHP Brandon Beachy, who has been on the DL since May 14 with the same injury. Beachy is scheduled to throw three innings. He will then throw four or five innings on Thursday and up to 100 pitches on June 21. ... The Astros signed second-round draft pick RHP Adrian Houser.

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