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HOU@ATL: Chipper touches home on Norris' wild pitch

ATLANTA -- The Braves will have a decision to make when Tommy Hanson is ready to come off the disabled list later this month. It looks like Kris Medlen belongs in the rotation.

"I don't think any one of us had any doubts that he could do it," Chipper Jones said. "But he still may be more valuable as that swingman in the bullpen. It's a tough call."

Medlen pitched well again in his second start, and Jones, who is retiring at the end of the season, continued his hot hitting Sunday in a 6-1 victory over Houston that capped an 8-2 homestand for the Braves.

Jones was 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a .364 stretch since June 19 has raised his average to .320.

The third baseman turned 40 in April, but he sure isn't hitting like someone who needs to hang it up.

"Maybe we can talk him out of it," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Jones had a one-word reply to that. It is the same one he has had all season.

"No," the future Hall of Famer said.

Jones' decision to retire may be set in stone, but what to do with Medlen is sure to remain a continuing point of debate.

"If he keeps progressing like this, it will be a tough," Gonzalez said.

Medlen pitched 5 1/3 innings in the no-decision against the Astros and was charged with one run while giving up five hits and two walks. He struck out six, and 53 of his 79 pitches were strikes.

A rain delay had limited Medlen to five innings and 57 pitches in his first start Tuesday as he beat the Marlins, 7-1. In that game, he allowed four hits, including a first-inning homer, while striking out three and walking one.

"I love it," said Medlen of starting. "It's a lot of fun. But if I have to go back to the bullpen when Tommy comes back, I'll be fine with it. I understand the situation."

Medlen was a starter and on a roll when he blew out his elbow in 2010. But he feels that now he is even more prepared for the rotation.

"I don't have the nerves I had back then," the right-hander said.

"Medlen did a terrific job," Gonzalez said. "I think we got him as far as we wanted to."

The Astros were impressed.

"He changed speeds, good sinker," Houston catcher Carlos Corporan said. "He didn't make that many mistakes. You can get away with a lot when you pitch down in the zone. Pitch on the corners."

"Medlen looked like he was pretty much in control early on," Houston manager Brad Mills said.

The Braves' bullpen would certainly be stronger with Medlen in it, but Jonny Venters gave the group a big lift on Sunday.

Medlen was pulled after allowing one-out hits in the sixth inning to Marvin Gonzalez and Brett Wallace. Cory Gearrin allowed a tying double to Justin Maxwell, who had gone 4-for-4 with two home runs in the Astros' 3-2 victory on Saturday. But Venters (4-3) shut them down and ended up with the victory.

Making his first appearance in a week after some elbow discomfort, Venters struck out pinch-hitter Matt Downs. Steve Pearce was then walked intentionally, then the left-hander got pinch-hitter J.D. Martinez to hit into an inning-ending forceout.

The Braves soon had the lead back as they finally got to Astros starter Bud Norris.

Atlanta loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning when David Ross, who had homered in the second, followed singles by Jones and Freddie Freeman with a two-out infield hit. Jones scored on the wild pitch and Paul Janish delivered a two-run single.

"For me, that's the turning point in the game," Gonzalez said of Janish's line drive over second base.

Norris (5-9) lost his eighth straight decision despite pitching well until the sixth. He came in with a 7.10 ERA over his previous 10 starts.

The Houston right-hander struck out five in the first two innings, but he couldn't slip a first-pitch fastball by Ross. Atlanta's backup catcher sliced a drive to right field with one out in the second that just eluded a leaping Brian Bogusevic and cleared the fence.

Atlanta added a run in the seventh on Jones' two-out RBI double and scored another in the eight on a single by Michael Bourn, who had been 0-for-13.

The Braves (62-46) are a season-high 16 games over .500, but remain three games behind first-place Washington in the National League East. Atlanta begins a six-game road trip through Philadelphia and New York on Monday.

The Nationals and Braves play two more series, with three games in Washington later in August and three games in Atlanta during September.

"We've got to keep winning," Gonzalez said.

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