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ATL@HOU: Heyward goes 3-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs

HOUSTON -- David Ross watched helplessly as this season's first road trip began in ugly fashion. But as it concluded at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night, the invaluable Braves backup catcher made sure he and his teammates would enjoy their flight back to Atlanta.

Ross provided an early lead with a two-run double and Jason Heyward highlighted a three-hit performance with an eighth-inning homer that gave the Braves some cushion as they salvaged a trying road trip, posting a 6-3 win over the Astros.

"It's most definitely good to get some momentum going forward," Heyward said. "You're going to lose four games at some point during the season. You just want to get that first one in there and then let the good times roll."

When the Braves fell to 0-4 for the first time since 1988 on Monday, it seemed like they were experiencing a continuation of last year's late-season collapse. But Chipper Jones revived a slumbering lineup with his return on Tuesday night and the Braves used that momentum on Wednesday to stave off a feisty Astros bunch.

Jones helped the Braves gain a three-run advantage with a ninth-inning single in what was likely his last at-bat in Houston. The insurance run that scored courtesy of the single was much appreciated as Carlos Lee came to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs in the ninth against Craig Kimbrel.

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez breathed a sigh of relief when one of Kimbrel's knee-buckling curveballs locked Lee up to end the game. The young closer had notched a save on a second consecutive night and the Braves had back-to-back wins for the first time since Sept. 13-14.

"The last thing you want to see at the end of the game is Carlos Lee at the plate being the tying run," Gonzalez said. "He had some pretty decent numbers against Kimbrel. I'm glad we got out of there without things getting too crazy in the ninth."

After the Astros tallied a run against Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh, Heyward helped the Braves regain a two-run advantage with his home run to begin the eighth. The blast to right field provided a cushion for Jonny Venters and Kimbrel.

"I know the pitchers thank us every time we can get an extra run for them," Heyward said. "That's kind of a momentum killer for [the Astros]."

Heyward's three-hit performance began with a game-tying single that scored Dan Uggla in the second. The 22-year-old outfielder entered the game with three hits in his first 15 at-bats.

Playing for the first time since the Braves concluded their exhibition season on April 3, Ross made his presence known when he victimized Wandy Rodriguez with his two-run double in the third. Singles by Jones and Heyward helped the Braves construct the bases-loaded threat.

Rodriguez, who had posted a 1.09 ERA in his five most recent starts against Atlanta, saw the Braves cap their three-run third with Jack Wilson scoring Heyward with a suicide squeeze bunt.

"I was in the bathroom a lot today with all of the nerves," Ross said. "It felt good to help the team win. It's always nerve-racking when you sit over there and haven't played for a while. Today was kind of like my Opening Day. There were a lot of nerves and a lot of adrenaline."

Widely considered one of the game's best backup catchers, Ross' most significant contribution actually seemed to come courtesy of his arm. The Astros produced consecutive one-out singles in the fifth, then saw Jordan Schafer score when J.D. Martinez's sharp comebacker hit Braves starter Randall Delgado in the left shin.

Fortunately for Delgado, the hot shot deflected toward first baseman Freddie Freeman, who then stepped on first base to record an out. Then with Lee at the plate, a heads-up Ross fired a strike that picked off Jose Altuve as he attempted to get back to second base.

"Rossy today was outstanding," Gonzalez said. "With Carlos Lee at the plate in the fifth, he back picked that guy at second base. To me, that was the turning point in the game."

Delgado allowed two earned runs and notched a career-high six strikeouts in an 89-pitch, five-inning effort. The Braves still have not had a starting pitcher record an out in the sixth inning this year.

Making just his eighth career start and first of the season, the 22-year-old right-hander surrendered a first-inning home run to Martinez, then found a groove before having to pitch around trouble in this final two innings. He used two strikeouts to help him pitch around the two walks and single he surrendered in a scoreless fourth.

"I thought Delgado gave us everything we were looking for," Gonzalez said. "He hadn't pitched in seven or eight days and we weren't going to push him over 100 pitches. He gave us a nice outing." Comments