As disorienting a trip as the Braves took to Minute Maid Park, where even manager Fredi Gonzalez had to correct himself when he first filled out his lineup card without a designated hitter Tuesday, the Braves managed to get their bearings on an otherwise wild road trip so far.
After dropping back-to-back games to close out the series in Washington, the Braves used a pair of home runs from the Upton brothers and some solid work by Aaron Harang to hang on for a 3-2 win in their first game in Houston in two years.
The Astros put the tying run at third base with two outs in both the seventh and eighth innings but Anthony Varvaro and Jordan Walden both got the big outs they needed to hold the Braves’ lead. A Ramiro Pena error in the ninth left work for Craig Kimbrel, but he nailed down his 22nd save by striking out George Springer.
The Braves hadn’t played at Minute Maid Park since April of 2012 when Chipper Jones came off the disabled list to homer in his first game following knee surgery. On Tuesday night, the retired third baseman was flying to Texas but only for a visit to his hunting ranch in the southwest part of the state.
The Braves showed a little power in his absence, getting home runs from both B.J. Upton and Justin Upton. It was the fourth time the brothers had both homered as teammates with the Braves, tying a major league record for brothers who are teammates. It was the first time they’d both homered since April 23, 2013 in Colorado.
The Braves jumped out to a 3-1 lead on the last-place team from the AL West, reeling from six losses in its past seven games, and made it stick with some tight rope work from Harang, who gave up only two runs in six innings. Harang worked out of a first-and-third, nobody out jam in the third inning by coaxing a pair of groundballs, the second of which Andrelton Simmons and Tommy La Stella turned for a double play.
He allowed a solo home run to George Springer in the first and an RBI single to Jonathan Villar in the fourth.
As for filling in that Braves’ lineup, Gonzalez said he had a good feeling about it when he penciled in B.J. Upton in the leadoff spot for the first time this season. The rest of the Braves fanbase might have thought he was crazy, but his struggling center fielder needed two at-bats in the leadoff spot to give Gonzalez a little validation.
B.J. Upton launched a solo home run to left field to give the Braves a 2-1 lead in the third inning and his brother ideas. Justin Upton followed suit in the fourth, taking aim at the train that roams the top of the left field wall, with his 15th home run of the year, to give the Braves a 3-1 lead.
The Upton brothers homered in the same game for the fourth time in the past two years, tying a major league record for brothers who are teammates, along with the Jason and Jeremy Giambi and Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero.
After scoring just one run in the final two losses in the Nationals series, the Braves had matched that by the second inning Tuesday night. Jason Heyward tripled to right center and Chris Johnson drove him in with a two-out double against his former team. That evened the game 1-1 after George Springer’s solo home run in the first inning off Harang.
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