Justin Maxwell powers Astros past Braves


Houston 3 Atlanta 2

Justin Maxwell drove in all three of the Astros runs tonight with a pair of long homeruns. Lucas Harrell turned in another solid performance on the hill and this time the bullpen was able to hold on to a one-run lead. Wilton Lopez picked up his first save of the season by inducing Juan Francisco to ground into a game ending double play.

It was a delightful change of pace to watch the Astros put together such a brilliant team effort tonight after coming up on the short end of so many lopsided games over the last month. Maxwell was 4 for 4 on the night, including the two homers against an otherwise effective Paul Maholm. Harrell won his second straight start and continues to be the Astros most dependable starter.

The thing that made the game so enjoyable was watching Harrell compete. The rookie right-hander showed a tremendous amount of determination, something that most of his teammates seem to be lacking during the team’s prolonged struggles. Harrell pumped his fist repeatedly on key strikeouts – and even on a ball off the bat of Dan Uggla that landed just foul. Harrell fanned five in six innings of work en route to his ninth win of the season.

Astros fans had to be thinking here we go again when Harrell turned the ball over to the bullpen with a 3-2 lead. Surprisingly enough, Fernando Rodriguez pitched a perfect seventh inning, setting up Wesley Wright for the eighth.

Houston had a chance to add on an insurance run in the top of the eighth when Ben Francisco came to the plate with runners at the corners and only one out. But Francisco, who had singled and scored on Maxwell’s homer in the fourth inning, fanned on a pitch out of the strike zone. Brett Wallace followed with a fly ball to the warning track in left and the Astros were left clinging to the smallest of margins.

Wesley Wright pitched a perfect eighth and whiffed Brian McCann to start the ninth. Lopez came in and plunked Dan Uggla after getting ahead in the count 0-2, setting the scene for the double play that would secure the victory.

The Astros played errorless defense and are now in position to claim a rare series win on the road. Sunday’s pitching matchup is somewhat favorable for the Astros as Bud Norris faces Kris Medlin at 12:35 CDT.