On the heels of a wretched trio of games at the end of the San Francisco series, the Braves touched down in Arizona for the return of Justin Upton (and Chris Johnson) to the desert. Let’s examine what took place when they arrived.
Monday, May 13th – Win (10-1)
Welcome back, Justin. The Braves outfielder (playing right field with Evan Gattis in the lineup) broke a “long” homerless streak with a 6th-inning blast, and finished his homecoming with a 4-for-5 day to pace the Braves to a blowout win. All of the superlatives in the world have been placed on Upton this season, but he was fantastic on Monday night. Chris Johnson also liked to see the confines of Chase Field, as he went 3-for-4 including a home run, and Brian McCann also added his 3rd home run of the season. Mike Minor didn’t have his best “stuff”, but he put together 6.2 grinding innings, allowing 8 hits, but only 1 earned run in securing his 5th win of the year. In the past, Minor may have let this one get away from him, but with the help of some BABIP luck and quality jam relief, he was able to escape much of the trouble. It was (obviously) a blowout victory, and optimism was incredibly high after this one.
Tuesday, May 14th – Loss (2-0)
Remember when the Braves had an issue with soft-tossing left-handed pitchers? The acquisition of the right-handed bats (Upton, Upton, Johnson) was supposed to alleviate that issue, but Patrick Corbin spun an absolute gem against Atlanta on Tuesday night. Corbin threw 7 innings of shutout ball, and although he walked 5 batters, he was in control for the great majority of the night, as the Braves didn’t have a runner reach 3rd-base against him. It was a maddening night at the plate for Atlanta, as the Braves amassed “only” 10 strikeouts, but there wasn’t a ton of hard contact, and they look befuddled. Julio Teheran threw 6 quality innings (7 hits, 0 walks, 2 ER) and provided an encouraging performance, but the theme of this game was the bats going silent after the previous day’s 10-run barrage.
Wednesday, May 15th – Loss (5-3)
In the series finale, Arizona found holes and the Braves found awaiting defenders. Paul Goldschmidt smacked 3 doubles and Eric Chavez added 2 hits (including the game-breaking 2-run double) to lead Arizona to victory over Tim Hudson and company. Hudson cruised through 4 innings, but allowed 4 runs in the fifth, including the aforementioned double by Chavez, and a back-breaking insurance run on a Cody Ross seeing-eye single. It wasn’t the first time that Hudson got “BABIP’d” to death, but there is some concern about his inability to dominate opposing hitters exposing him to this type of day. The bats went dead at inopportune times as well, as the Braves left 12 men on-base, including several in the late innings. It was nice to see Freddie Freeman (3 hits and all 3 RBI) break out a bit, but outside of his stellar at-bats, there wasn’t much to see.
With back-to-back losses to end the series, the Braves have now lost 5 of 6 games as they make the trip home. A 4-6 road trip isn’t disastrous when you consider that a) it’s May, and b) it’s a 10-game trip against three potential playoff teams. It’ll be interesting to see how the Braves respond in their own ballpark, and the Dodgers arrive on Friday night for a three-game set. Stay tuned.