Although the Braves were unable to come away with a sweep on Wednesday afternoon, they showed signs of some positives we hadn’t really seen from this team up to this point. First of all, the Braves won 2 games and hit only 1 home run in this series. They scored 14 out of their 15 runs in this series via manufacturing. The team had 3 sacrifice flies, an RBI groundout and the rest were singles and double for the Braves with the lone exception being Justin Upton‘s home run ball in Game 2.
This was a stereotypical pitchers duel right from the start. Both Mike Minor and Kevin Slowey were brilliant out of the gate and the bullpens were equally outstanding up until the 14th inning for the Marlins. Miami’s bullpen had retired 24 straight from the 6th inning up until the first batter of the 14th when Reed Johnson drew a leadoff walk. After the walk by Johnson, Chris Hatcher imploded and allowed a 6 run frame to the explosive Atlanta lineup. The Braves bullpen was equally masterful as they pitched 2 hit shutout baseball over 7 2/3 innings.
One of the few offensive stars of the game was Justin Upton. Justin was 2 for 5 with 3 RBI’s including a 2 run double which broke the tie in the 14th. He also drove in the lone run for Atlanta in regulation on a sac fly that followed a Jason Heyward triple.
Game 2 was once again Justin Upton’s night. The left fielder went 3 for 5, scored 3 times, and knocked in 2 including his massive solo home run in the 7th inning. His brother BJ also showed some signs of life as he went 2 for 3 with an RBI. After surrendering a 3 run unearned home run, Braves starter Julio Teheran settled down and had a marvelous outing. Teheran dazzled over 7 1/3 innings and earned his 7th win of the season.
Once again, the Braves offense showed some great signs in Game 2. After falling behind 3-1 in the second, the battled back and were able to get Teheran the win. Atlanta didn’t allow the Marlins lead to last as they jumped on Henderson Alvarez and tied the game in the top of the third. After falling behind again, the Braves were able to battle back and tie the game in the 5th, take the lead in the 6th, tack another on in the 7th and allow the bullpen to lock things down. Craig Kimbrel was able to close it out in the ninth with a beautifully pitched inning for his 24th save of the season.
The final game of this series was not so positive for Atlanta. After being unable to score in the first inning, Paul Maholm came out and laid a dud for the Braves allowing 4 runs in the frame. However, Atlanta’s offense slowly chipped away at the 4 run lead and manufactured a run in the second inning and 1 in the sixth to cut the lead to 2. That was the score until Luis Ayala allowed 2 runs in the bottom of the eighth which basically ended the rally for the Braves. They were able to put 2 on in the ninth before faltering and allowing the Marlins to salvage the last game of the three game set. One of the few highlights for Atlanta in this one came from Chris Johnson who continued his hot hitting with 2 more hits including an RBI and a run scored. Chris extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a hit in each of the three games in Miami.
Justin Upton: For the series, Justin was 5 for 13 with 5 RBI’s and 4 runs scored. He was clearly the best offensive player in this series and provided possibly the biggest Atlanta hit to date this season with the 2 run double in the 14th inning on Monday night.
The Entire Bullpen: This three game set was a little taxing on the Braves bullpen but this group was able to take it in stride and deliver marvelous work. Over 13 innings they allowed just 2 runs on 6 hits all while striking out 12 hitters. They allowed the offense plenty of time to create runs in game 1 when they took the game from Mike Minor in the bottom of the 6th and pitch a shutout through the 14th inning.
Series LVP (Least Valuable Player)
Paul Maholm: Although Paul settled down nicely after allowing a 4 spot in the first, he was not able to get his team the win and a sweep on Wednesday afternoon. Although it is tough to call a starting pitcher the least valuable player of the series, he was one of the few blemishes the Braves had in this three game set. Also on a personal level for Paul, with Brandon Beachy returning soon he is picking an awful time to have one of his worst stretches of the season. Paul has allowed 4 earned runs in 3 of his last 4 starts and that could lead to him being the odd man out when Brandon returns.
The Braves will look to go into the All Star break on a strong note as the Cincinnati Reds come to town for a 4 game set in Atlanta on Thursday night.