Tommy Hanson fans career-high 14 as Braves top Astros

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The Braves have never given Tommy Hanson a whole lot of help since he debuted two years, but he’s consistently gotten just enough this year.  On Sunday, he improved to 8-4 by striking out a career-high 14 in the Braves’ 4-1 victory over the Astros.

Hanson pitched seven innings and allowed one run on three hits.  The 14 strikeouts topped his previous best by three.  He entered with five career 10-strikeout games, with his high total of 11 coming against the Gaints on July 20, 2009.

More than just run support, it was bullpen support that was a problem for Hanson in the past, most notably when he went 2-6 despite a 2.51 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break last year.  Through 14 starts this year, the bullpen has blown one lead for him.

Hanson is currently third in the NL with a 2.48 ERA, fifth with a 1.03 WHIP and sixth with 89 strikeouts.  Only Roy Halladay with nine has more victories.  Halladay would certainly be the Cy Young choice if the balloting were held today, but Hanson would be right there with Cole Hamels and his Braves teammate Jair Jurrjens as a candidates to place second or third.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.