Man in the Stands

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Braves sweep Colorado with relentless offense

Atlanta (64-45) finished off the four-game series with the Colorado Rockies (51-59) with an 11-2 victory on Thursday night.

The fourth installment was nothing short of what the rest of the series proved: There is still life in the bats of the Braves!

Justin Upton appears to be coming back to life after his drought since April. He clubbed 12 home runs in the opening month of the 2013 season. Since the end of April, Upton had hit four HRs until Thursday. Thursday, he added two more. He brought in five runs with those two swings of the bat, his only hits of the night.

Jason Heyward scored three runs and hit a home run in the game. Freddie Freeman added to the contest with two hits of his own and scored two runs.

Chris Johnson drove in two on three hits. Thursday was his seventh straight multi-hit game, bumping his average up to .346, which continues to be the National League best. Johnson trails only Miguel Cabrera, who continues to be out of the Tigers lineup with an abdomen injury, for the MLB best average by just .013.

Only two Braves starters came up without a hit in the game. Leftfielder Evan Gattis was 0-4 and only saw five (5!) pitches in the match-up. Dan Uggla also came up empty with a walk and a strikeout.

Pitcher Julio Teheran (8-5) picked up the win for Atlanta on a solid 5-inning start. Teheran gave up one earned run on five hits. He walked two and struck out 11.

Teheran also got into the party at the plate. He hit an RBI double in the second inning. Teheran also singled in the fourth and scored on the Jason Heyward home run.

Scott Downs, David Carpenter, Luis Avilan, and Anthony Varvaro all saw work from the sixth inning on.

As well as Johnson getting his seventh straight multi-hit game, the Braves picked up their seventh straight win.

The Rockies series showed what Braves fans hope is the aggressive offense that lasts through October! Atlanta outscored Colorado 40-13 over the four games and outhit them 55-36.

Since the seven-game streak has started (or most notably since Waffle House opened up at the Ted), the Braves have outscored their opponent 51-16.

Atlanta carries the momentum of the back-to-back sweeps into a weekend series with the Philadelphia Phillies, which begins on Friday at Citizens Bank Park Stadium.

With Cliff Lee out, Philadelphia announced on Thursday afternoon that they will be calling up right-hander Ethan Martin and making a corresponding roster change before the game on Friday. Martin is a product of Stephens County High School in Toccoa, Ga.

He will be making his MLB debut against Kris Medlen (7-10), and his hometown Braves, at 7:05 ET.

Braves beat Rockies in offensive explosion

The Atlanta Braves exploded for six runs in the fourth inning on their way to an 11-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

After being down 3-1 in the second inning, it looked to be a long night for Alex Wood (1-2), who picked up his first win as a big leaguer.

The Braves (62-45) got one back off an RBI double from Justin Upton in the third to make it a one-run game before blowing it open the next inning.

Dan Uggla opened the bottom of the frame with a double to left field. Two batters later saw Wood ground out to second base, moving Uggla to third. Jason Heyward hit a 2-out single to score Uggla before Upton bounced a ground rule double over the right-field fence.

Freddie Freeman was next up and was intentionally walked to bring Evan Gattis, or EL OSO BLANCO, to the plate. Gattis scored Heyward and Upton with a single and moved Freeman to third and himself to second on the throw.

With runners on second and third, catcher Brian McCann stepped into the box to deliver a three-run home run to right field. McCann finished with just the one hit and the three RBIs.

All six of the runs scored in the inning came with two outs on the board. Even more surprising is that the team was able to manufacture runs in the game. Granted, it was only four of the 11, but, still, that is something that fans, and media alike, have criticized the Braves for.

Atlanta has relied heavily on the long ball this season.  As a matter of fact, the Braves are 52-17 when they have hit at least one homer in the game. When they haven’t hit a bomb, only 10-28. They lead the National League in home runs with 126, followed by Colorado’s 120.

Another surprise for the Braves’ offense on Tuesday was it’s latest Gwinnett call-up, Todd Cunningham. Cunningham was summoned from the Braves Triple-A affiliate after Reed Johnson was placed on the 15-day DL with left Achilles tendinitis.

In his first Major League at-bat, Cunningham faced three pitches and sent the last to left field for a single.

Alex Wood, after a rocky start (no pun intended), threw a rookie-style gem for the home squad. He settled down after giving up three earned runs in 39 pitches over the first two innings of the ballgame. He threw only 60 pitches the next five innings to finish up at 7.0 innings, 6 hits, walk, and 7 strikeouts.

Anthony Varvaro came in for the final two innings, only giving up one hit and capping the game.

Freeman ended his night with four RBIs after hitting a solo shot in the first and a three-run blast in the seventh.

On the offensive front though, the story, for me, has to be Chris Johnson. Johnson was 7-10 against the Cardinals, scoring four runs in the series (three in one game!), and taking over Yadier Molina for the highest batting average in the National League.

Tuesday night, Johnson went 2-4 with a walk raising his average to .341, keeping his #1 spot in the NL and bringing him to 2nd in the Majors behind 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera (.359). His on-base percentage is up to .381 and he’s slugging .470. Tuesday was also his fifth straight multi-hit game and 34th of the season.

Another story that could be given a lot of attention from the baseball media is how well Jason Heyward has done from the leadoff spot and how well Andrelton Simmons has done since being moved out of it.

Heyward has gone 7-17, scored five runs, driven in four, and walked twice in the four games since making the move.

Simmons has been just as good. He has hit 8-17, scored a run, driven in five, and has not struck out. Simmons has only been struck out twice in the month of July (once VS Philadelphia and once VS Cincinnati) and neither have come after the All-Star break.

Since ending the Cardinals’ four-game winning streak, the Braves have started a five-game streak of their own.

(Special note: The Cardinals have since lost three games to the Pirates, who now lead the NL Central. St. Louis’ new streak is L6.)

Atlanta goes for its sixth-straight victory Wednesday in the third of a four-game series with the Rockies (51-57). Mike Minor (10-5) will battle right-hander Tyler Chatwood (7-3) starting with first pitch at 7:10 p.m. from Turner Field.

Braves top St. Louis, Receive good news

Mike Minor (10-5) was able to lead Atlanta to a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals to snap a four-game winning streak on Friday night at Turner Field.

Minor threw 70 of his 103 pitches for strikes in his 7.0 innings of work, giving up only four hits, including a 2nd inning home run to Yadier Molina, and striking out five batters along the way.

After giving up that homer to Molina in the top of the inning, Minor came up with a single to left to bring home Dan Uggla. Uggla, along with Chris Johnson and Minor, was a perfect 1-1 with runners in scoring position on the night.

Jason Heyward added to the two-run lead in the 5th inning with an opposite field home run off of Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (13-6), his 8th of the season.

Minor’s gem is even bigger when you look at the six players coming into Friday’s contest hitting above the .300 mark. He was able to hold them to a combined 3-21 with one RBI (Molina’s HR).

Jordan Walden was able to come in and pitch a perfect 8th inning, throwing only seven pitches. Craig Kimbrel was able to pick-up his 29th save of the season on 17 pitches and two strikeouts.

Thanks to the Braves official Twitter…

Fans were able to get some pretty uplifting news tonight. Not long after game’s end, the @Braves handle tweeted an update on Tim Hudson. (Both are listed below)

Many fans knew that Huddy would be having his surgery today but didn’t know exactly what for other than a fractured ankle.

The fractured/broken bone was to be expected from any of those who saw the play. What is concerning is the ligament. Even though the team didn’t let fans know exactly what happened to the ligament, those things are tough to judge and fully recover.

Honestly, four months, even though it means he won’t see another game this season, is a happy and exciting thing to hear. It gives hope to fans that we will get him back as strong as ever next year and well in time for Spring Training!

If you’ve ever seen Tim in the dugout, whether on TV or when you’re at the game, you know he’s the biggest cheerleader on the team and a great team leader. The media in Atlanta has already reported that we can get used to seeing him in the dugout for the remainder of the season and that is great for the squad. His presence is a powerful thing for a team that has the largest division lead in baseball!

Follow me @ZackMyers11

Atlanta’s alarming numbers

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The Atlanta Braves are sitting pretty with 13 games left before the All-Star Break.

The club has compiled a 48-34 record through 82 games played this season, including a six-game lead in the National League East, largest division lead in the Majors.

Atlanta is coming off of its second best month so far, including the current three-game winning streak after sweeping Arizona.

Though the team is having a successful season, there are reasons for concern when September and October arrive.

Sure, the Braves are third in the league in home runs (102), 10th in OPS, and 13th in runs, but other offensive categories are alarming.

The Braves were shutout four times in June making the team the most shutout team in the MLB with 11. Ranking 20th of the 30 teams in hits, Atlanta has struck out 723 times this season, second only to Houston.

The worries don’t stop there. Pitchers Tim Hudson and Julio Teheran both have batting averages higher than center fielder B.J. Upton. Teheran is only .011 points lower than the average of second baseman Dan Uggla.

Uggla, whose contract runs through the 2015 season, is on pace to have the worst season of his career. Only 254 at-bats into this season, Uggla already has a team-high 102 strikeouts. He is also on his way to career-lows in hits, runs scored, and RBIs. His struggles do not end at the plate. With a team-high 10 errors, he is on path to a career-high.

Combine all of these issues with the fact that the Braves have $9.25 million in salary on the disabled list right now. Two of the players, Johnny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, on the DL currently were major pieces to the bullpen in 2012. Both are out for the rest of the year after having Tommy John surgery.

It is hard to see a team with the strikeout numbers, low number of hits, and high profile players being out-hit by pitchers that the Braves are seeing make a late season run. Hopefully, the team can make a change in the statistics for the better and keep the success rolling.

After the 14 straight division championships, the last in 2005, Braves fans are ready to see them get back to that position, as well as making it to the World Series. Atlanta hasn’t seen the team reach the World Series since the ’99 season, despite having the talent year after year.

This season seems to be something special, but there is still a lot of baseball left to be played. As a fan, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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