CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Teixeira watches as Braves roll

Braves hold slim lead in opener

ATLANTA -- Newly acquired Atlanta first baseman Mark Teixeira was shown on the video board at Turner Field during the bottom of the seventh inning on Tuesday. He received a standing ovation, and the Braves proceeded to show him just how good of a lineup he is joining.

Of course, the addition of Teixeira will only enhance Atlanta's offense, but the Braves will be hard-pressed to improve upon their 26-run output of the last two games. They followed up Sunday's outburst in Arizona with a 12-4 thrashing of the Astros on Tuesday night.

The Braves hit four home runs, including two by Kelly Johnson, who delivered four hits and five RBIs. The game was in doubt before Atlanta's four-run seventh, highlighted by Johnson's three-run blast. The homer came soon after Atlanta fans got their first look at Teixeira, decked out in his new home white threads.

"Oh, we need him, no question about that," Johnson said. "It's nice to be swinging and scoring runs the way it's been going, and it's going to be fun. If we can outscore everybody, it's just as good as shutting everybody out."

Johnson showed his own indispensability Tuesday, when even his mistakes turned out right.

The game was still in doubt in the top of the sixth, with Houston trailing 5-4 with Eric Bruntlett on first base. A grounder hit by Eric Munson went through Johnson's legs and into right field, moving Bruntlett to third.

The relay throw skipped past second base, and Bruntlett's attempt to score was denied by a throw home from Chipper Jones. The out ended the half-inning and paved the way for Atlanta's offense to pour it on in the late innings.

Johnson made the most noise, however, with his bat. He matched a career-high with four hits and had his second career multi-homer game as part of Atlanta's 15-hit attack.

"I felt good," Johnson said. "It's nice to be home after a day off and in familiar territories. It's just exciting from the second you get out here. It's a little adrenaline and a lot of fun."

Run support had been foreign to Chuck James during his last three starts, but he got some on Tuesday when he needed it the most.

James was 0-1 in his previous three starts despite allowing just three earned runs in 19 innings, a record that was the product of Atlanta's lack of offense and a shaky bullpen, which gave back a 4-0 lead James established on July 14 against the Pirates.

James didn't recapture the form of his previous three outings, but earned the win because the Braves gave him an early 5-1 cushion.

"That's the worst game he's pitched in his last six," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It's funny -- he's pitched unbelievable baseball in his last five [starts], and in the last three he didn't get the win."

James recorded seven fly ball outs in the first four innings, but those fly balls turned into line drives in the fifth.

James allowed a first-inning solo home run to Lance Berkman and a second-inning single to Ty Wigginton, after which James retired eight in a row. Wigginton struck James again for a double in the fourth, but James avoided trouble by attacking the strike zone.

He helped create his own trouble in the fifth with a leadoff walk to Bruntlett. Two singles followed to make it 5-2, and Craig Biggio doubled home two more with no outs. James left Biggio at second, but his night ended just as he qualified for the win after 82 pitches.

"I hit a wall," James said. "I went back and checked some of the replays and I made good pitches. Biggio got a big hit there -- it was down and away. They just got the best of me in that inning."

James could afford it, however, because Atlanta's offense fared even better against Houston starter Chris Sampson.

The Braves took the lead for good in the second with a two-run inning highlighted by Brian McCann's one-out solo homer and aided by Julio Franco's sacrifice fly, a feat matched an inning later by Andruw Jones to make it 3-1.

After a one-out single by Jeff Francoeur in the fourth, Johnson followed with his first home run, a line drive deep into the right-field seats.

After Johnson's error proved to be no problem, the Braves went back on the offensive attack, with Francoeur delivering Atlanta's third home run, a solo shot to left in the sixth. The Braves made it a no-doubter in the seventh with four runs, all of which came after Teixeira's appearance on the 70-by-70-foot screen beyond the center-field wall.

"We had some good at-bats against the starter [Sampson]," McCann said. "We got to him a little early, and Chuck had us in there."

Even Atlanta's bullpen, which has been porous recently and is sure to face some roster changes when Ron Mahay and Octavio Dotel arrive on Wednesday, was invincible on the Braves' most significant day of the season. Peter Moylan, Tyler Yates, Rafael Soriano and Jose Ascanio combined to pitch four hitless innings.

Teixeira, activated just before the game and available to pinch-hit, was not used Tuesday. He'll be in the lineup on Wednesday and is sure to make the Braves' offense even more prolific, even if their performance the last two nights has set an unreachable bar.

"I know he's going to help the middle of the lineup tremendously," Johnson said. "I can't wait to see what happens."

Jeff Lutz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{}
{}