After a disappointing five-game extravaganza with the Mets, the Braves took to the road for a more “traditional” weekend series against the struggling Milwaukee Brewers. Let’s take a glance at what took place.
Friday, June 21st – Loss (2-0)
The bats fell silent against Milwaukee’s Wily Peralta in the series opener. The Braves generated just 2 hits in the game, and despite a decent effort from Julio Teheran, this game felt further away than the final score indicated. On the positive side of the spectrum, the Braves took 6 walks against Peralta and closer Francisco Rodriguez, but the hard-hit contact simply wasn’t there throughout the night. Peralta has high-end “stuff” (especially in comparison to the rest of Milwaukee’s rotation), but it was certainly unacceptable to be shut down at this level. The aforementioned Teheran pitched effectively, going 6.1 innings while allowing 2 runs, 0 walks, and striking out 5, but it wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, the offensive woes were just beginning.
Saturday, June 22nd – Loss (2-0)
Back-to-back shutouts? Against the lowly Brewers? That’s where the Braves found themselves after another less-than-stellar showing on Saturday afternoon. Milwaukee fill-in starter Jonathan Hand made the first start of his career, and led the Brewers 5-man pitching unit to a 4-hit shutout of the hapless Braves offense. BJ Upton and Andrelton Simmons generated 2 hits each for Atlanta, but the Braves went 0-for-3 with RISP, and even had two instances of caught stealing in the game. The biggest culprits for the power outage for Atlanta were Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann. The 3-4-6 hitters in the lineup finished a ghastly 0-for-11 with no walks, and it is tough to win on the road with that type of production from your studs. It seemed like the same story with a different day (score included), but Tim Hudson’s mound work wasn’t as inspiring as Julio Teheran’s, either. Hudson waded his way through 6 innings while allowing only 2 earned runs, but he allowed a staggering 11 baserunners (7 hits, 4 walks) while striking out only 4, and it was frankly a wonder that the game was this close. Needless to say, optimism wasn’t the foremost feeling when the clubhouse dispersed on Saturday evening.
Sunday, June 23rd – Win (7-4)
That’s more like it. The Braves homered 4 times on Sunday afternoon, headlined by a Brian McCann opposite-field grand slam in the 1st inning, and after that blast, the team never looked back. All told, the offense put up 14 hits and 7 runs, and while McCann’s blast certainly led the way, Jordan Schafer (4-for-5 with a home run), Chris Johnson (2-for-3 with a home run), and the Andrelton Simmons/Dan Uggla duo (2-for-5 for each) had big-time games for Atlanta. This was yet another instance of Schafer’s positive production, as his monster day raised his OBP to a staggering .406, and he is showing the big-time “tools” that made him a top prospect years ago. On the bump for the Braves, Paul Maholm wasn’t dominant (5 IP, 8 hits, 4 ER), but the bullpen and the offense picked him up to give him the win. Speaking of the bullpen, Luis Avilan, Anthony Varvaro, Jordan Walden, and Craig Kimbrel all pitched spectacularly, allowing just 1 hit combined over 4 innings, and not even the 2-hitter blowup from Cory Gearrin (who walked both hitters) could derail the Braves in route to victory. After the first two games, this one felt particularly sweet.
Despite the extremely ugly offense in the first two games of the series, the Braves leave Milwaukee with a shred of momentum. On the bright side, Atlanta has two days off this week (both Monday and Thursday) to get rested, and the team’s 44-33 record gives them a 6-game advantage over the Nationals as the week begins. Stay tuned for the upcoming series preview with the Kansas City Royals.