Thursday, June 26, 2014
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Braves shut out punchless Astros

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[June 26, 2014]  HOUSTON -- Following a stint with Triple-A Gwinnett with a directive to regain stamina as a starter, Atlanta Braves left-hander Alex Wood earned an opportunity to fill the void left by the loss of right-hander Gavin Floyd to an elbow fracture last week.

Wood capitalized on the moment Wednesday by pitching seven shutout innings and, backed by percolating left fielder Justin Upton, led the Braves to a 4-0 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Wood (6-6) allowed three hits and one walk while striking out four. He needed just 79 pitches to complete seven innings, allowing just three baserunners into scoring position. Before his departure on June 10 and before making two starts with Gwinnett, Wood last pitched more than five innings April 22 during a 1-0 loss to the Miami Marlins.

"It felt good," Wood said. "It felt good to be back out there and be back on the mound with these guys, and I was just hoping I could go long and not have to weigh the bullpen down. Fortunately I was able to go as deep as I could."

The Astros (33-46) have lost eight of nine since closing to within six games of .500 on June 14. They were shut out for the third time during that stretch and have scored four runs during their four-game skid.

"It was different from last night where we had a lot of chances with men in scoring position and we didn't get the big hit," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "We struggled just to even mount some offense today.
 


"Give the guy (Wood) credit because, any time you get shut out, obviously the other team is doing something well. He did a great job, he was efficient with his pitch count, he attacked the strike zone and we had some hittable pitches and did not put quality swings on them."

Justin Upton drove in three runs and older brother B.J. Upton doubled and scored in the eighth. The Braves (40-37) improved to 4-2 on their 11-game trip.

With Wood having made only two starts for Gwinnett, the Braves aimed for caution with his pitch count. Wood mitigated those concerns.

Through five innings Wood had tossed just 49 pitches. He worked around a leadoff double by center fielder Dexter Fowler in the first and a two-out double by first baseman Jon Singleton in the fourth.

Wood retired the Astros in order in the second, third and fifth innings. When Singleton strode to the plate with two on base and two outs in the sixth inning, Wood struck him out on an 83 mph changeup.

"It was nice running him down there (to Gwinnett)," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We wanted to get him at least three or four starts, not two, but I think it was nice that we did that because he was able to give us a spot start and stay in the rotation now that Gavin is out and give us an opportunity to win a game every fifth day."

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While Wood was exceptional, Astros right-hander Collin McHugh (4-6) was his equal -- save for his inability to keep Justin Upton corralled. McHugh had eight strikeouts through six innings yet trailed 1-0 thanks to Upton's sacrifice fly that scored left fielder Evan Gattis in the second.

When Upton stepped in for his third plate appearance in the seventh, right fielder Jason Heyward was on first after a one-out hit by pitch. Upton cranked a titanic opposite-field homer into the Astros' bullpen in right-center field, scoring Heyward and boosting the Braves' lead to 3-0.

"For me it was the Heyward at-bat where I hit (him)," McHugh said. "When you put guys on base for Upton, who is an RBI machine, things are going to happen, especially late in the game. I was up around 100 pitches and maybe I was getting tired. I don't know, but you can't give a guy free bases."

NOTES: Astros prospect Carlos Correa had arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday to correct a fractured right fibula suffered last Saturday night with Class A Lancaster. Correa, the Astros' top prospect and the seventh in baseball, will miss the remainder of the minor league season. However, the Astros remain hopeful that he might recover in time to participate in the Arizona Fall League. ... The Astros recalled OF L.J. Hoes from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned OF Robbie Grossman to the RedHawks. In 21 games (20 starts) since his recall from Oklahoma City on May 26, Grossman hit .182/.299/.227 for the Astros. ... Braves RHP David Carpenter will throw a second bullpen session Thursday and will likely be sent on a rehab assignment soon thereafter. Carpenter was placed on the 15-day disabled list June 17 with a strained right biceps.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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