The Braves began a long-awaited homestand with an extremely exciting, comeback-driven sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend. Following that whirlwind of a series, the Braves welcomed the lowly Twins to Atlanta for three games, and let’s take a look at what took place.
Monday, May 20th – Win (5-1)
The Julio Teheran breakout game! The Braves fifth-starter tossed 8.1 innings, allowing only 1 earned run (we’ll come back to this), 5 hits, and only 1 walk in the outing, and he was sparkling throughout the outing. Teheran pitched 8 perfect innings (while throwing 109 pitches) before the curious decision by Fredi Gonzalez to bring him back for the ninth, but if we remove that choice, and Josh Willingham’s home run, it was virtually perfect from Teheran. His change-up has seemingly abandoned him (again), but his breaking stuff was sharp and the control was excellent. On the offensive side, it was a balanced night, but Dan Uggla’s 3-run blast in the 1st-inning was the key play of the game, and it was nice to see Uggla get a hold of one. Monday’s win was probably the most “ho-hum” of games in terms of on-field theatrics, but Teheran’s performance inspires big-time confidence for the future.
Tuesday, May 21st – Win (5-4 in 10 innings)
What a game. The legend of Evan Gattis grew in a big way on Tuesday night, as he blasted the game-tying solo home run with 2 outs in the 9th inning to keep the Braves alive. It was yet another huge pinch-hitting appearance from Gattis, and the 412-foot bomb caused an explosion by what was the left of the Turner Field crowd. As time took us deep into the night (thanks to a lengthy rain-delay and Gattis’ blast), Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless 10th inning, and Freddie Freeman finished off the Twins with a walk-off single to deep right. There were many heroes in this game, as Tim Hudson (who tossed 5 gutty innings despite being impeded by the hour-plus delay) and Brian McCann (3 for 4 with a home run) added to Gattis and Freeman to steal the victory. Four come-from-behind wins in five nights is downright absurd, but it was the truth when things wrapped up on Tuesday.
Wednesday, May 22nd – Win (8-3)
Remember when Evan Gattis lengthened his big-hit résumé with Tuesday’s game-tying homer? Well, he came through in a big way on Wednesday afternoon, as well. With the Braves already ahead 3-0 through 3 innings, BJ Upton broke out of his long slump with a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th, but that was just the beginning, as Atlanta loaded the bases for Gattis. Then, Wednesday’s starting catcher virtually “popped up” to right field, but his brute strength carried the ball over the wall for a game-breaking grand slam and an 8-0 lead. That was the end of the scoring for Atlanta, but it was more than enough. Paul Maholm threw 7.1 great innings, allowing only 1 run (unearned) and striking out 4 Twins. Cory Rasmus made his major-league debut, and while he struggled a bit (allowing 2 home runs), he finished things off with a comfortable 8-3 victory and another series sweep.
There is a very short list of better home-stands than this for the Atlanta Braves, and I can’t think of any six-game stretches in the regular season that have brought more excitement to Turner Field. With the six victories, the Braves have taken their home record to a stunning 15-5, and in the process, have lengthened their division lead to 4.5 games over the Washington Nationals. Atlanta takes to the road (yet again) over the weekend with a series against the Mets, but memories of this week’s festivities won’t soon be forgotten.