Man in the Stands

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Upton home run extends Braves streak to 11

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Justin Upton’s game-winning home run helped the Braves (68-45) overcome a strong game from Nationals (54-58) pitcher Stephen Strasburg to win their 11th straight contest on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (5-9) threw seven innings, giving up two earned runs on only five hits. He faced 28 batters, striking out nine of them.

Upton’s home run (20) off of Tyler Clippard (6-2) in the eighth inning proved to be the game winner. Clippard gave up another hit but only the one run in his single inning of work.

Upton was 3-for-4 on the night and scored another run off of a Freddie Freeman two-out single in the fifth.

Freeman also drove in the other run scored for the Braves on a single in the third inning. Jason Heyward scored on that play. Freeman was 3-for-4 on the night with the two RBIs.

Upton, Freeman, Heyward, and B.J. Upton were the only Braves to secure a hit in the contest.

Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Andrelton Simmons, and Chris Johnson, one game removed from a Braves record hitting streak, were all 0-fer in the game. Both McCann and B.J. had two strikeouts.

The story in the game will undoubtedly be pulled toward the Justin Upton go-ahead home run in the eighth. Some would argue that it should be the timely hitting by Freddie Freeman to drive in the two runs earlier in the game. For me, the story of the game is easily the pitching. More importantly, the Braves bullpen.

You can score as many runs as you want to, but, if your bullpen gives up more than you’re scoring, it won’t matter for much.

Mike Minor (11-5) started things off for the Braves on Monday, but picked up a no-decision. In his six innings of work, Minor gave up eight hits and two earned runs. He also issued three walks and had three strikeouts.

David Carpenter (3-0) picked up the win for Atlanta on 1-2/3 masterful innings. He was perfect in his time on the mound, with two strikeouts along the way.

Luis Avilan was on the bump for the final out of the eighth inning. Avilan walked up to the mound and tossed one (1) pitch for the out.

Usually, in a one-run game, Craig Kimbrel would enter the game to finish off the game and toss the last inning. After working all three nights in Philadelphia, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to give him a rest and give the ball to Jordan Walden for the save opportunity.

Walden picked up the save, his only of the season, on nine pitches. He gave up only one hit in the ninth to cap off the game.

Walden and Cory Gearrin are the only two pitchers outside of Kimbrel to have a save on their resume from the Braves 2013 season.

The game was the Braves 36th comeback win of the year, most in the Majors by any team.

We’re going streaking:

With the end of the Phillies series, the Braves were at 10-straight wins, which tied a streak from earlier this season. With the win on Monday night, 11-straight makes the longest win streak for Atlanta since winning 15-straight from April 16-May 2 in the 2000 season.

Through the 11 games, the Braves have outscored their opponents 69-27. Atlanta is hitting a solid .294 as a team throughout the streak, holding their opponents to a .211 average. The team has hit 13 home runs during the run as well.

Opposing pitchers have walked the Braves 40 times compared to the Braves pitching staff giving out only 21 walks. Atlanta’s staff has also struckout the opponents batters 97 times out of 360 at-bats.

Extending the streak:

Tuesday night is game two of a three-game series between the two squads. The pitching match-up, Julio Teheran VS Gio Gonzalez, will be fun to watch.

Teheran (8-5), the Braves 22-year-old right-hander, has a 3.02 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 117 strikeouts this season.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Teheran has pitched 18 innings and amassed a 4.50 ERA against the Nationals in three games in 2013.

Pitching against Washington this year, Teheran is 0-1. In his three starts, he’s given up 23 hits, nine earned runs, and the Nats are hitting a nice .329 off of him.

Teheran has tossed only six innings at Nationals Park this season. In that time he has picked up a 6.00 ERA and given up a four earned runs with a home run in only six hits.

As for Gonzalez (7-4), he has faced the Braves three times this season as well with an 0-2 record.

In his 16 innings against Atlanta, the Braves are hitting .270 off of him with 13 earned runs, including three home runs. Gonzalez has a 7.31 ERA against a team who have been hot as of late.

When pitching at home, Gonzalez has a 3.07 ERA with a 4-2 record in 11 games. In those games, he’s thrown over 67 innings and given up 23 earned runs and issued 26 walks. He’s also held opponents to a .232 average.

The Braves will chase their 12th-straight victory against the Nationals in Washington on Tuesday night against Gonzalez. First pitch from Nationals Park will be 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!

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Pitching troubling Atlanta

“The Braves suddenly have pitching woes” reads the first line of Jason Mastrodonato’s recent article for mlb.com.

As I read the sentence, I kind of laughed in my head and thought, “The Braves never have pitching troubles. We’re always deep in the ‘pen. Usually our pitching problems come down to too many of them.”

The more I thought about it, and re-read the sentence again, I realized, “Holy hell. He’s right.”

Hudson’s down, Beachy is likely to be rushed back, and, as we all know, there are two strong relievers out for the season.

The article, titled “Braves leaning on Minor to anchor rotation,” goes on to point out what the title says, the team is pretty much dependent on how well Mike Minor pitches. Some how this season, Minor has become the ace of the staff. With Huddy’s broken ankle, that has now been all but confirmed.

Braves Country will be holding tightly to the coattails of Minor and following him into the dark. His first task P.H.A. (Post-Huddy’s Ankle) is to take the mound Friday against a tough Cardinals line-up, which has six players hitting above .300, including Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Carlos Beltran.

As far as Brandon Beachy is concerned, he threw a rehab game with Gwinnett on Wednesday night. His line (6.0 innings, 2 H, 2 runs, 1 ER, 4 walks, 3 K) was nothing to brag about, but, out of his 86 pitches, he threw 51 strikes. That’s a promising outing. As a fan, I would still love to see him get at least one, if not two, more starts and see that he is not experiencing soreness or fatigue, but it sounds like we may see him Monday against the Rockies.

Watching Wood get beat around the yard like a playground soccer ball on Thursday didn’t leave much hope for his help this season and his relief, Kameron Loe, definitely did not leave Braves fan feeling any more comfortable.

With Minor and Teheran throwing well, there is some ease of the minds of Braves fans, but Maholm, Wood, and Medlen are making it tough to put the rotation “out of sight, out of mind.”

Medlen has given up 20 earned runs in his last 5 starts (2-3) and has not seen the end of the sixth inning in his last 3 starts (0-3). Granted, it is hard to focus and pitch well when your team isn’t putting up runs for you, but you still have a job to do. Kris just isn’t getting it done right now.

With the trade deadline coming up and the state of the starting rotation, you have to wonder what moves the Braves are looking to make. If you are Frank Wren, do you go after starting pitchers or do you have a focus elsewhere to pick up help for?

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