Astros face Braves in battle of two hot pitchers (Jul 04, 2017)

BY AP • July 3, 2017

ATLANTA -- A pair of hot pitchers will oppose each other on the Fourth of July in the opener of a quick two-game series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves at Sun Trust Park.

Houston sends right-hander Brad Peacock (3-1, 2.32 ERA) against Atlanta southpaw Sean Newcomb (1-2, 1.48) on Tuesday when the two former National League West rivals meet for the second time this season. The Astros swept two games against the Braves on May 9-10.

Peacock will make his eighth start after opening the season in the bullpen. Since joining the rotation, Peacock has gone 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA and has 51 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings.

Peacock has won consecutive games and has allowed only one run in each of his past three starts. But the former relief pitcher hasn't been stretched out and has yet to go more than six innings in any appearance.

He threw five innings against Oakland in his most recent start on Thursday and allowed one run on two hits, with seven strikeouts and six walks, in the 6-1 win.

"It was a good game for (Peacock) to get through five innings," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "It was a grind for him. You look up at the end of the day, he had a really good day. It was just difficult for him to get his rhythm and get his timing."

Newcomb will make his fifth major league start and has yet to be rattled by the process. He's pitched at least six innings in each appearance and has allowed no more than three runs in any outing. Twice he's allowed no earned runs.

Newcomb earned his first win in his most recent start last Tuesday at San Diego. He threw six shutout innings and allowed six walks and eight strikeouts. Newcomb has been able to effectively locate his fastball and mix in an excellent curve ball.

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker continues to be impressed by the rookie.

"He was really good again," Snitker said after Newcomb's effort against the Padres. "He threw a lot of strikes and was on the attack. His breaking ball was good. It was just a really impressive outing."

Peacock has never faced Atlanta and Newcomb has never faced Houston.

Houston (56-27) has the best record in baseball and remains in first place in the AL West. The Astros have won seven of their last 10 and won two of three against the New York Yankees. The Astros have posted the best 83-game start in franchise history, eclipsing their former mark of 52-31 set in 1979.

Atlanta (40-41) has won seven of its last 10 games and come home fresh from a three-game sweep at Oakland. The streak has allowed the Braves to pull to within 7 1/2 games of Washington in the NL East.

The series will also be a homecoming for a pair of Houston catchers who both began their careers in Atlanta and remain fan favorites.

Brian McCann, an Atlanta native, spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Braves. He signed a free-agent contract with the New York Yankees and played three years there. This is his first season in Houston and he's batting .260 with 10 homers. McCann will likely be pleased to see the short left-field wall at Sun Trust Park.

Evan Gattis spent his first two seasons with the Braves and hit 43 homers. He was traded to the Astros before the 2015 season in a deal that brought right-hander Mike Foltynewicz to Atlanta. Gattis is batting .277 with six homers and 32 RBIs.

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