They say that pitching wins games, but we all know good pitching without any hitting does little good. The Braves turned their hitting up a notch in their last game against the Milwaukee Brewers, and kept that offense going in the first game of the mini series against the Kansas City Royals. Atlanta pitching wasn’t bad either.
Things looked a touch dismal in the bottom of the first inning, as Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward, and Freddie Freeman all struck out swinging, and although Ervin Santana did give up a walk early to Justin Upton (taking the role of DH), the start didn’t look good for Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves begin to make some contact in the second inning though, as Brian McCann and B.J. Upton both grounded out. From that point on the Braves began to play smart and patient, and were able to send Santana back to the bench after just six innings, something few have been able to do to one of the Royals’ best pitchers, and a pitcher known recently for going deep in games. Santana has a good slider, but it appeared to be slightly off, and he seemed to me to be throwing entirely too many of them. As a result, Atlanta hitters picked up on that early and were able to get patient hits waiting on Ervin’s increasingly predictable sliders.
Jason Heyward needed a good game, and produced, going 2 for 4 with a homer and 3 RBIs. Heyward had not been able to get a homerun off a left handed pitcher in 91 ABs going back to September 7th, so his homerun was a bit of a reason for the Gold Glove right fielder to celebrate. Jordan Schafer has been extremely productive lately in the leadoff spot, and is making a strong case to stay in the lineup. Schafer is hitting .317, and went 2 for 5 in the game with 1 RBI, an aggressive bunt single, and a stolen base. To me, Jordan’s drive, energy, and hustle are key elements to the success the Braves have had in the last couple of games. Justin Upton has been a little stale offensively of late (dropped to a .241 BA), but he went 1 for 4 with a double and a walk. Freddie Freeman has been hotter than firecracker, and although he wasn’t on fire in this game, he still went 1 for 3 with a walk as well. With additional hits by B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Chris Johnson, and Andrelton Simmons, Santana was kept on his toes and had to exit earlier than usual. The Royals’ starter went six innings, giving up 3 runs (all three earned) on 6 hits, and although he struck out 7, he also walked three Atlanta batters.
After Santana’s exit, Tim Collins came in for the Royals in relief, but gave up a run on 2 hits, and quickly exited for Juan Gutierrez who gave up 2 hits as well. With no runs scored on Juan, but the threat looming, the Royals then brought in Will Smith (Just up from the minors), and while Smith kept Atlanta from scoring any more runs, the damage had already been done.
Kris Medlen had a good outing, throwing 93 pitches (63 of them strikes) through 7 innings, and although he allowed 3 runs (all earned) on 7 hits with a walk, he struck out 5 and was able to limit the damage the Royals were able to do, as 7 of their 9 batters got hits while Medlen was on the mound. The always reliable Jordan Walden came in to relieve Medlen late in the game, and held the Royals scoreless. Craig Kimbrel then came in to close and flirted with danger giving up a leadoff walk and then loading the bases, but Braves’ fans uttered a collective sigh of relief as Craig was able to strike out two and get a pop out to end the final inning and give the Braves a narrow 4-3 victory. It’s interesting to note that Craig Kimbrel has now pitched 16 scoreless innings as a closer since his last blown save on May 7th. The Braves will hope to maintain the same momentum tomorrow evening in the second and final game of the mini series. If you haven’t read our series preview yet, take a look HERE.
(Provided by Braves.com)
2B: Upton, J (10, Santana, E), Johnson, C (16, Santana, E), Schafer, J (6, Santana, E), Heyward (9, Santana, E).
HR: Heyward (6, 7th inning off Collins, 0 on, 1 out).
TB: Johnson, C 2; Schafer, J 3; Upton, B; Simmons; Freeman, F; Uggla; Heyward 6; Upton, J 2.
RBI: Schafer, J (14), Heyward 3 (16).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Heyward; Uggla; Upton, B; Simmons.
GIDP: Johnson, C, Upton, J.
Team RISP: 3-for-12.
Team LOB: 8.
SB: Schafer, J (9, 2nd base off Santana, E/Perez, S).
CS: Simmons (4, 2nd base by Santana, E/Perez, S).
E: Medlen (2, pickoff), Walden (1, pickoff).
DP: (Freeman, F-Simmons-Freeman, F).