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Updated: Friday, May 6, 2005 12:10 AM EDT



  R H E  
Astros 3 3 1 WP: Thomson (3-2)
LP: Backe (2-2)  
Braves 9 11 1
LaRoche, Thomson add to Astros' road woes

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Hoping to put their road troubles behind them, the Houston Astros opened their seven-game trip on a good note. However, Adam LaRoche quickly turned the tide and John Thomson maintained the pressure.

LaRoche belted a three-run homer and collected a career-high four RBI and Thomson tossed a three-hitter as the Atlanta Braves recorded a 9-3 victory over the Astros.

Entering with just one win in 11 road games this season, the Astros struck early, scoring a pair of runs in the first inning on an RBI groundout by Jose Vizcaino and a sacrifice fly by Mike Lamb .

However, Atlanta stormed back against Brandon Backe in the bottom half as Chipper Jones followed singles by Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles with an RBI base hit and LaRoche launched his third homer of the season for a 4-2 lead.

"(Jones) has been all over me about not being able to hit one out this season," LaRoche said. "It was good to get one out. ... He actually owes me a dinner for that."

"As if he hadn't had enough free dinners off of me," Jones said. "He wants one more. When am I going to get some free dinners?"

Already leading, 5-3, the Braves staged a four-run rally in the sixth to take control. Thomson ignited the uprising with an run-scoring single and LaRoche collected his fourth RBI of the contest with a groundout.

"When I'm successful, I'm more aggressive," said LaRoche, who collected three RBI in a 5-2 win over Florida on Wednesday. "I cannot go up there like a leadoff guy and try to work the count."

Thomson (3-2) yielded a single, double and solo homer by Morgan Ensberg en route to his first complete game since August 24, 2003 and Atlanta's first of the season. The veteran righthander, who struck out five without a walk, showed tremendous control, throwing first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 31 batters he faced.

"(Getting ahead is) a key because they know you're going to go up there and throw strikes, so they're going to go up there swinging at the first pitch, second pitch," Thomson said. "They know they're not going to sit there getting ball one, ball two. They're going to have to start swinging early in the count. That works to my advantage."

Thomson got stronger as the game progressed. After a double by Craig Biggio in the first inning, he retired 27 of the last 29 batters he faced and did not work from the stretch until the ninth, when Furcal misplayed leadoff hitter Willy Taveras ' grounder for an error.

"That's the best I've felt this year," Thomson said. "When Furcal made the error in the ninth inning, I said to myself, 'It's the first time I'd been in the stretch since the first inning.'"

"After the first two innings, it was absolutely three up and three down all ballgame," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He had a rough start, but I thought he was real good again."

Biggio's double was the 575th of his career, moving him past Charlie Gehringer for 16th place on the all-time list.

Backe (2-2) was reached for seven runs, nine hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings. Of the 27 runs allowed by the 27-year-old righthander this season, 10 have been scored in the first inning.

"I felt weak," said Backe, who was hospitalized Monday night with a viral infection. "I couldn't put anything away. I didn't plan for it to go the way it did."

The loss kept Houston even with Tampa Bay and Colorado for the fewest road wins in the major leagues.

"We just have to continue to battle and work (our) way through it," Biggio said. "We just have to turn it around. Don't overanalyze things, just play through it."

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