This wasn’t the way Fredi Gonzalez envisioned his group coming out of the All-Star break. After a solid win on Friday night to begin the second half, the Braves dropped the last two games of the series to the last place White Sox who have been a mess all season long. However, the good news for the Braves came in the form of the fact that no ground was lost in the division over the weekend. The Phillies dropped two of three to the Mets and the Nationals were swept by the Dodgers on their home turf keeping the Braves lead at 6 1/2 games.
Friday night the Braves had their make-shift lineup out on the field and still managed to pull out with a 6-4 win. No Freddie Freeman, No Jason Heyward, no problem and that was mostly thanks to Brian McCann. Brian provided the big blow of the game in the form of a 3 run home run over right field wall. Other offensive highlights included a 2 run home run by Andrelton Simmons, and a 3 hit night for Chris Johnson. Tim Hudson took the bump for the Braves and although he wasn’t masterful, he pitched well enough to win his seventh game of the season allowing 4 earned runs over 7.1 innings. At the back end was familiar face Craig Kimbrel who closed out his 27th game of the season. This win provided the Braves with a good chance of coming out with a series victory heading into the weekend. However, the next two matinees would prove to be a struggle for Atlanta.
The Braves jumped out on top in the early going as the bats were very much alive. Dan Uggla launched his 19th home run of the year in the 2nd inning and a 2 run third inning as well got the Braves off to a 4-0 start. However it all came unglued in the bottom of the third for Paul Maholm. After looking strong through the first two innings, the third was a costly one for Paul. He allowed 7 earned runs in the third frame alone, including an Alex Rios grand slam. Maholm would exit the game after that inning due to an injury in his left wrist which he would be sent back to Atlanta to have checked out. The White Sox got the lead all the way up to 10-4 before Freddie Freeman’s two run home run in the ninth ended the scoring at 10-6 and evened the series up 1 to 1.
As fast as the Braves bats start was on Saturday, it was equally slow on Sunday. Although the team had 9 hits and drew 4 walks, the hitting with runners in scoring position problem continued for Atlanta as they stranded 11 runners on base and failed to score on 2 different occasions with the bases loaded. The lone run was knocked in by Evan Gattis who’s RBI single in the 5th capped off the scoring for Atlanta. On the other side of the ball, Mike Minor was masterful. The tough luck loser allowed 5 hits and 2 earned runs over 8 great innings of work. The dagger was provided by Casper Wells in the top of the 8th inning who made a great leaping catch at the wall robbing Reed Johnson of a game tying home run to keep the score 3-1. The Braves were unable to muster any kind of offense after the fantastic catch by Wells.
Brian McCann- Nobody was too stellar for Atlanta during this three game set, so I will give the nod to the guy who provided the biggest hit of the series. Without McCann’s three run homer on Friday night, the Braves are walking out of Chicago with brooms handed to them. Although he was only 3 for 11 in this series with 3 RBI’s, he provided the biggest hit and was the biggest presence the Braves had in their order over the weekend.
Paul Maholm- I’ve done this to Paul in my last two series recap’s but once again I must elect him my LVP. After being given a 4-0 lead by the bats, Paul coughed it up and put the lineup in a huge hole in the third frame of Saturday’s game. Maholm puts the Braves in a really tough spot with a few bad outings in a row, dwindling trade value, and now a left wrist injury. Maholm is more than likely going to find himself out of the Braves rotation when Brandon Beachy returns and Alex Wood stretches out his arm.
The Braves will begin a 4 game set in Queens on Monday night against the New York Mets who are coming off of a series victory over the Phillies. The good news for the Braves in this series is that they dodge Matt Harvey who pitched beautifully in the Mets Sunday afternoon victory.