Homers off Braves' relievers fuel Astros' win

Homers off Braves' relievers fuel Astros' win

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While the Braves gained some encouragement from a pair of their rotation candidates on Thursday afternoon at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex, the Astros frustrated a couple of veteran relievers during a 5-3 win that was claimed courtesy of A.J. Reed's three-run homer in the eighth inning.

Reed's two-out blast off Jim Johnson provided the Astros their first lead of the game. Houston's only other runs came via Danny Worth's two-run homer in the fourth inning against Jason Grilli, who was pitching in a game for the first time since he ruptured his left Achilles tendon on July 11.

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While Williams Perez and Manny Banuelos strengthened their respective bids for a spot in Atlanta's rotation by throwing three scoreless innings apiece, Astros starter Mike Fiers encountered trouble throughout his three-inning stint, during which he surrendered three runs (two earned) and five hits.

Braves' rotation hopefuls turn in successful outings

After the Braves gained a 1-0 lead on Nick Swisher's two-out single in the first inning, Fiers issued a pair of walks and loaded the bases before recording his first out in the second inning. The Astros right-hander nearly escaped unscathed, but two runs scored when Nolan Fontana threw high and wide of first base after fielding Michael Bourn's two-out grounder.

With two rotation spots open, the Braves were certainly happy to see Perez surrender just one hit and issue one walk in his start. Perez retired eight of the nine batters he faced before Carlos Gomez singled with two outs in the third inning.

Banuelos also limited the Astros to one hit, making just his second appearance since having bone spurs removed from his left elbow in September. The Braves southpaw still has time to prepare to be Atlanta's fifth starter.

"They both pitched pretty well," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It was good to get Perez stretched out to three innings. Manny did a good job of mixing his fastball and breaking ball."

Up next for the Astros: Right-hander Doug Fister, who was sent home earlier in the week while dealing with an illness, will make his fourth start of the spring Friday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin at 12:07 p.m. CT, live on MLB.TV and MLB Network. Fister allowed three runs on six hits in three innings his last time out.

Up next for the Braves: Fresh off Thursday's two-homer performance against the Nationals, Freddie Freeman will be back in the lineup when Atlanta hosts the Miami Marlins on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET, live on Gameday Audio. This will mark the first time this year that Freeman has played in three straight games. He has said this will be the final hurdle he has to clear to become fully confident that his right wrist is healthy. The Braves will send Matt Wisler to the mound to make his third start.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.