Braves Fall To Astros

SportsBaseballHouston AstrosAtlanta BravesLance BerkmanSpring TrainingBob Wickman

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- While not overly concerned about his
hitting slump, Chris Burke was certainly glad to break out of it.
   The center fielder, who hadn't had a hit since March 2, got two
on Wednesday, including a home run to lead the Houston Astros to a
4-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
   Entering Wednesday's game, Burke was just 2-for-34 with his only
hits coming in the March 2 game. He'd been questioned incessantly
about the struggles and some had even wondered if his job was in
jeopardy.
   Manager Phil Garner quelled that speculation on Tuesday, saying
spring training batting averages don't mean much. However, he too
was glad to see him move past it.
   "I actually told him before the game that really spring
training didn't count, but it would be nice for him to get a hit
before we got out," Garner said. "So it was nice of him to
accommodate me today."
   Burke's first hit came in the second inning on a line drive up
the middle that bounced off the glove of pitcher Chuck James. He
narrowly beat the throw to first.
   "The whole thing was getting to be comical," Burke said,
sporting a huge smile. "Especially after that first ball I hit. I
thought the guy had caught it. But it fell down and I had to run
for my life just to get a single."
   In the fourth, he hit the first pitch over the left-field wall
for his first homer of the spring.
   "It's amazing because I get one hit and then the next time I
went up to bat, it felt like a huge weight was lifted," he said.
"I didn't necessarily think I was going to hit a home run, but
that's the way it worked out."
   Even with Wednesday's performance, Burke isn't exactly on fire
with a .111 average, but he hopes to build on the outing.
   "I'm glad that I'll hopefully be able to get a little rhythm
here and start swinging it better," he said.
   And just as he had before the hits, Garner maintained he's more
concerned with Burke taking a good approach at the plate than he is
about his average.
   "I don't want him to get giddy now and start going back to
pulling the ball too much," Garner said. "I don't care if he hits
.400 the rest of the way, if he's pulling the ball, that's not a
good swing for him."
   While Burke finally hit well, Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur continued
his strong start. Francoeur was 2-for-3 on Wednesday to put his
spring average at .414.
   "Whew, he's hitting nothing but bullets," Braves manager Bobby
Cox said. "He's ready to go."
   In his third spring start, first-year Astro Jason Jennings
allowed five hits and one run with four strikeouts in four innings.
   "So-so," Garner said about Jennings' performance. "He got
through it. I don't think he had his sinker very good today. It's
been a little bit elusive for him here in the spring. But the trick
is getting through it when you don't have your best stuff."
   Jennings said he's working on stretching out his pitch count and
that he made some adjustments from his last start against the
Nationals.
   "I was just pounding the zone and working down in the zone,"
Jennings said. "I was up in the zone the other day in Viera and
got hurt with it."
   The Braves got four innings from James, who allowed five hits
and three runs with one strikeout and two walks. Bob Wickman, who
hadn't allowed a run in four one-inning appearances this spring,
gave up a home run to Lance Berkman in the fifth.
   "That's the first ball hit hard he's given up all spring," Cox
said. "He's had nothing but ground balls."
   Scott Thorman had two doubles, an RBI and scored once for the
Braves and Ryan Langerhans also had a double.
Notes: Houston optioned LHP Mark McLemore and outfielders Mike
Rodriguez and Josh Anderson to Triple-A Round Rock on Wednesday.
... Also on Wednesday, the Astros reassigned catcher Kevin Davidson
to minor league camp.

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