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Pence, Astros crush Braves

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

HOUSTON -- Hunter Pence returned from a day off with back trouble and homered and drove in four runs as the Houston Astros snapped a four-game skid with an 8-3 win over the Atlanta Braves on Monday.

Pence missed his first game this season Sunday while dealing with tightness in his lower back. He said before the game that he felt great and then quickly showed it by extending his career-best hitting streak to 23 games with a two-run homer off Derek Lowe (3-5) in the third inning.

He also drove in two runs with single in Houston's five-run sixth inning. Pence's hitting streak is the longest active streak in the majors.

Wandy Rodriguez (4-3) allowed two hits in six scoreless innings for the win in his return from the disabled list. Wilton Lopez and Sergio Escalona each pitched a scoreless inning.

Brandon Lyon allowed a three-run homer to Jordan Schafer with two outs in the ninth, but retired Dan Uggla to end the game.

Lowe yielded eight hits, five runs and three walks in 51/3 innings as Atlanta snapped a season-high six-game winning streak.

Brett Wallace had a pair of doubles and walked twice as the Astros won for just the second time in 10 games.

Clint Barmes singled before Pence's shot to right field put Houston ahead 2-0 in the third inning. Pence finished with three hits and is batting .325 with 50 RBIs.

Jeff Keppinger singled in the sixth and scored on a double by Brett Wallace to make it 3-0. A single by J.R. Towles with one out chased Lowe, who was replaced by Scott Linebrink. A double to left field by pinch hitter Matt Downs scored Wallace before Linebrink intentionally walked Michael Bourn to load the bases.

Towles scored on a sacrifice fly by Barmes to extend the lead to 5-0 before Pence's sharp grounder scored Downs and Bourn and made it 7-0.

Wallace doubled before a single by Chris Johnson in the seventh inning. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Towles to put Houston up 8-0.

Schafer doubled to leadoff the first before Rodriguez walked Dan Uggla. Freddie Freeman walked with two outs to load the bases, but Rodriguez escaped the jam by striking out Joe Mather.

Rodriguez retired the next five batters before plunking Brian McCann with two outs in the third inning. He walked Chipper Jones but escaped unscathed again when he struck out Freeman.

He threw a 1-2-3 fourth before a double by Lowe to start the fifth inning. But Rodriguez retired the next three to leave Lowe stranded.

Rodriguez walked Jones in the sixth, but faced the minimum after the Astros turned a double play.

Bourn, who leads the majors with 27 stolen bases, swiped the 200th of his career in the fifth inning.

Notes: Atlanta OF Jason Heyward (right shoulder) began a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he expects him to play two or three games before he is activated from the disabled list. ... An MRI performed Monday on the sprained right ankle of Houston OF Jason Bourgeois didn't show any damage and he entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch runner.