With the world champion San Francisco Giants in town, tension was high and anticipation was thick for the 3-game set over the weekend. After a disastrous sweep in San Diego, it wasn’t exactly the most positive environment, but alas, let’s take a glance at what transpired at Turner Field.
Friday, June 14th – Loss (6-0)
Yikes. The score says it all, but Madison Bumgarner absolutely befuddled the Braves on Friday night. The Giants left-handed ace threw 7 innings (including 5+ no-hit innings) while striking out 10 and walking just 1 as he shut down the Braves offense. It isn’t the worst crime in the world to be dominated by Bumgarner, who is a top-flight arm, but on the heels of the ugly sweep in San Diego, it wasn’t a positive result. On the mound for Atlanta, Kris Medlen struggled, allowing a bevy of two-strike hits, and finishing the day with 6 innings, 9 hits, and 4 earned runs allowed. On the positive side, he didn’t walk a batter (lowering his walk rate to a solid 2.67 per 9), but his command was lacking in big spots, and he struggled to make big pitches. In the end, this was probably one of the 54 “guaranteed” losses during the season, as the Braves just ran into a buzzsaw, but it wasn’t a pleasurable experience.
Saturday, June 15th – Win (6-5)
When we look back at the 2013 season, this could be one of “those” wins that define the campaign. The Braves trailed 5-2 after 5 innings, and entered the 9th inning with a 5-4 deficit against one of the best closers in the game in Sergio Romo. Then, after a Ramiro Pena strikeout, the lineup put together some incredible at-bats, and put away Romo and the Giants with 2 runs. Evan Gattis worked a big walk to start the rally, and after a crucial error by Giants 3rd baseman Joaquin Arias that allowed Andrelton Simmons to reach base, Jason Heyward singled, Justin Upton worked a bases-loaded walk, and that brought Freddie Freeman to the plate in a tie game. It almost seemed destined to see Freeman (who is hitting over .400 with RISP this season) at the dish, and he came through in a big way with a 1-out, walk-off single that nearly caused a mob scene on the field. What a win. It was even more special to grab this victory on a day where Mike Minor, who started for the Braves, didn’t have his best stuff. The staff ace allowed 5 runs (4 earned) over 6 innings, but the bullpen (3 scoreless innings) and the bats picked him up in big-time fashion. In addition to the late rally, BJ Upton blasted two massive home runs (his 7th and 8th of the year), and Chris Johnson added two hits to help the Braves to their 6-run total. After four straight losses, Saturday’s result was the perfect recipe.
Sunday, June 16th – Win (3-0)
Julio! The young right-hander tossed 6 incredible innings on Sunday night, showing a national TV audience that he has fully arrived on the scene. Teheran did allow 7 hits over those 6 frames, but his control was good (1 walk), and he showed the high-end strikeout potential that he is capable of by fanning 8 Giants. Julio’s performance was the story of the night (easily), but the bullpen was also tremendous as the Avilan/Walden/Kimbrel trio combined for 3 perfect innings (no hits, no walks) while striking out 4. On the offensive end, Freddie Freeman continued to smack the ball around the yard, as he finished the day 3-for-4, and Chris Johnson added a 2-for-4 day to help key the offense. Tim Lincecum did a solid job of holding the bats down for Atlanta, but the 3 runs was enough on a day where the pitching sparkled.
Midway through Saturday’s game, it looked as if the Braves were destined for back-to-back series losses. Then, the bats awakened, the rally commenced, and Atlanta rode that momentum all the way to back-to-back wins and a “steal” of the series. As the Mets come to town for the week (and 5 games), the Braves hold a 6.5-game lead over the rival Nationals, and all is well in Braves country.