ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones doesn't know what's gotten into Braves manager Bobby Cox.
Two suicide squeeze bunts, and two big runs, in one week for Atlanta?"I walked up to Bobby and put my hand on his forehead and asked him if he was feeling all right," Jones said with a laugh. "It's very uncharacteristic, but it's a great call."Jones and pitcher Derek Lowe each drove in two runs and Lowe won his third straight start at home in Atlanta's 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.The Braves, winners of three straight and five of six overall, improved to 22-7 at Turner Field. Atlanta has won 12 of its past 13 at home.Kansas City has lost two of three.Lowe (9-5) allowed six hits, three runs and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out three and drove in a pair of runs with a squeeze bunt in the second and an RBI single in the fourth.Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his 13th save in 15 chances.According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Braves are 29-0 this season, and the major leagues' only unbeaten team, when scoring at least five runs.Atlanta stayed one-half game ahead of the second-place New York Mets, who have won eight straight, in the National League East.Lowe improved to 6-2 with 3.80 ERA in eight starts at Turner Field this year. He laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to score Eric Hinske in the second and added an RBI single in the fourth.Last Saturday at Minnesota, the Braves won 3-2 when Brooks Conrad's suicide squeeze scored Gregor Blanco in the ninth.Lowe's hit came after Melky Cabrera's RBI double and before a run-scoring single by Jones made it 5-2."Big hit he got," Cox said. "And the squeeze -- Derek's a good hitter. Sometimes you don't want to squeeze with him."Kansas City cut into Atlanta's early two-run lead to 2-1 on Jason Kendall's RBI single and Billy Butler's seventh homer that led off the third.Brian Bannister (6-5) allowed seven hits, five runs and three walks in four innings. He struck out two."It was a historically bad game," Bannister said. "I didn't recognize myself out there tonight."Dropping to 1-4 with an 8.56 ERA in seven starts on the road, Bannister has given up 14 runs in his past seven innings. The right-hander won five straight starts before losing 11-5 on Saturday at Cincinnati."I had a little hangover," Bannister said in referring to his start against the Reds. "I was really gun-shy. It wasn't a fun game. I had zero confidence. I know I'm better than that. Last Saturday was the lowest point of my career. It was a pretty rough experience. I'm human."Kanekoa Texeira pitched the fifth and left after Jones' sacrifice fly gave the Braves a 6-2 lead in the sixth.Pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit's RBI single in the seventh chased Lowe. Eric O'Flaherty and Peter Moylan combined to pitch the next 1 2/3 innings, which included Jose Guillen's RBI single in the eighth."We had chances to win the ballgame," Butler said. "We've played catch-up before. That's why we play nine innings."Lowe left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters, but Jones was adamant that the 14th-year veteran has figured out difficulties with his sinking fastball that caused him to lose four of six starts through May 17."He's moving the ball in and out to both righties and lefties, whereas he was just letting them dive out there and get hold of that sinker," Jones said. "He's throwing his slider down and in, he's back-dooring it, and he's utilizing his changeup more. All those things have contributed to going from a point where he was going five [innings] and giving up five or six [runs], to going seven and giving up two or three."
Over his past 14 games, a span of 62 at-bats, Atlanta RF Jason Heyward has struck out 26 times. In 10 at-bats against his former team, Betemit has a .600 average and eight RBIs. Cabrera, who went 3-for-4, has a .337 average over his last 28 games, a span of 92 at-bats.