Heart of order powers up in Braves' loss to Astros

Freeman, Johnson, J. Upton all go deep; Hale touched for six runs

Heart of order powers up in Braves' loss to Astros

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dexter Fowler recorded three hits and the Astros took advantage of David Hale's command issues on the way to claiming a 7-5 win over the Braves on Monday night at Champion Stadium.

After recording singles in each of his first three plate appearances, Fowler drew a walk to begin the sixth inning against Hale. The Astros' center fielder advanced to second base on Robbie Grossman's single and then scored the go-ahead run when Dan Uggla's attempt to turn a double play sailed past first base and landed on the Braves' dugout.

The Braves gained an early four-run advantage when Chris Johnson and Justin Upton hit back-to-back first-inning home runs against Dallas Keuchel. Johnson's three-run shot hit the batter's eye beyond the center-field wall. Upton's line-drive solo shot over the left-field wall was similar to the home run he hit against the Mets on Sunday.

Despite allowing five hits in the first three innings, Hale preserved his four-run advantage until Fowler fueled Houston's three-run third inning with an RBI single. Before Grossman followed with an RBI triple that was misplayed by Upton in left field, Keuchel scored on a wild pitch.

Jose Altuve began Houston's two-run fifth inning with a single and later scored on the second of the two wild pitches charged to Hale, who allowed 12 hits and six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Hale's rough outing will give the Braves reason to evaluate whether he or non-roster invitee Gus Schlosser will begin the season in Atlanta's starting rotation.

Keuchel's bid to begin the season as Houston's fifth starter strengthened as he recovered from his first-inning woes and kept the Braves scoreless over the remainder of his four-inning effort.

Up next: Ervin Santana will make his second Grapefruit League start when the Braves travel to Lakeland to play the Tigers on Tuesday afternoon. This will be Santana's last chance to pitch in a big league setting until he makes his expected debut in Atlanta's rotation during the regular season's second week. The game can be seen live on MLB.TV (ESPN broadcast) at 1:05 p.m. ET.

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