Last night was the kind of game that the Braves have being losing in recent months: closely fought, excellently pitched, but never getting enough runs to break through at the end. The kind of game in which a defeated opponent is seemingly resurrected with new momentum by winning when all odds were against them.
Not this time.
Despite 13 runners left on base, despite scoring only once in 11 innings, a 2-run homer by Justin Upton in the 12th put the dagger into a dying Cincinnati Reds team that could only muster two singles – both from Billy Hamilton – as that held on behind Mike Minor and Craig Kimbrel for a 3-1 victory. The Braves thus continue their hot streak: winners of 7 of their last 8 games, and keeping pace with the Giants, who defeated the Nationals 10-3.
Hamilton broke up the no-hit bid of a tiring Minor with two outs in the 8th inning – tying the game with a just-far-enough single, then almost single-handledly stole the win with his speed. The Braves’ defense – including great plays by Chris Johnson – also refused to give in as the door was shut on the Reds despite Hamilton’s best efforts.
Whew. We needed that one.
Justin Upton’s HR sends Braves over Reds in 12
Minor has only one complete game in his career, but he held the Reds without a hit into the eighth, bidding to become the first Braves pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Kent Mercker in 1994.
Zack Cozart drew Minor’s fourth walk and advanced on a groundout. Hamilton lined an RBI single to center with two outs to end the no-hitter on Minor’s 107th and final pitch.
Minor has changed the grip on a couple of his pitches and pulled out of a funk with three consecutive solid showings.
“Just three weeks ago, I felt like I couldn’t get anybody out,” Minor said. “I felt more focused, but I’ve felt like that the last three games.”
Washington’s loss means Atlanta gained 1 game on them – now 6 back.
However, San Francisco’s win over the Nationals keeps Atlanta 1 game behind the Giants for that last Wild Card slot.
The change there, though, is that the Cardinals lost to Philadelphia, putting them just a 1 game up on San Fran and 2 on Atlanta.
Pittsburgh kept pace – 1.5 behind Atlanta, as did the Marlins (yes, they are still hanging around – 3 behind the Braves).
Meanwhile, I’m about to bury the rest: Cincinnati, the Mets and San Diego have pretty much lost touch with the front-runners and have no momentum to stay in the race at all.