Major Leagues: Braves 4, Astros 1
HOUSTON — Tommy Hanson loves pitching at Minute Maid Park.
It was clear to see why on Sunday.
Hanson struck out a career-high 14 in seven innings, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla hit two-run homers and the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros 4-1 for their sixth straight win.
“Here, for whatever reason, the plate feels real close to me,” he said. “I don’t have a problem at all getting my fast ball down here.”
Hanson (8-4) gave up one run and three hits while improving to 3-0 with a 0.97 ERA in five career starts against the Astros.
“He was able throw everything over the plate for strikes, and he’s throwing in the 90-93 (mph) range,” Houston manager Brad Mills said. “He has a pretty good fastball, and then his soft stuff, slider and curve, really kept us off. That is some pretty good stuff.”
The 24-year-old righty struck out five in a row early in the game and fanned the last three batters he faced.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez thought about taking him out after the sixth inning because he had thrown 97 pitches.
“It was borderline pitch count after the sixth inning and he goes: ‘Oh, I’m good,’” Gonzalez said. “And he was good. He finished the seventh inning and it probably was the best inning he had.”
Hanson’s strikeouts were the most by a Braves pitcher since John Smoltz had 15 in 2005 against the Mets. Hanson is tied with Houston’s Bud Norris for the most strikeouts in a game at Minute Maid Park.
“Here you can look up and see how many strikeouts you have (but) that’s not something you want to go out and try to do,” he said. “It’s not something you think about while you’re out there. You just want to make your pitches and try to get the guys out whether it’s a strikeout, or a ground ball or a pop up.”
The Astros lost for the eighth time in nine games and struck out 17 times overall. Reliever Eric O’Flaherty fanned one in the eighth and Jonny Venters struck out two in the ninth. Venters earned his third save and extended his scoreless streak to 22 innings, the best current string by a reliever in the majors.
The slumping Uggla hit his eighth homer, a shot to left field off Brett Myers (2-6) that put Atlanta up 2-0 in the first inning. It was his first homer in 21 games, which tied his career long for games without a home run.
“My timing has been better the last couple of days,” said Uggla, who was 5 for 11 against Houston after entering the series in a 7 for 76 slump.
McCann, who hit a go-ahead homer in the 10th inning Saturday, connected for his fourth homer this season against Houston for a 4-0 lead in the sixth.
Myers, who started his career as a Piedmont Boll Weevil in Kannapolis, yielded five hits and four runs in seven innings. The 18 homers he has allowed this season are the most in the majors.
“Same thing every time I start,” Myers said. “Two pitches end up losing me the game. It’s frustrating.”