Before heading to the All-Star break, the Braves had one more formidable foe in the Cincinnati Reds to go up against in a four game series before welcoming the break with open arms.
The Braves ended up splitting the series at two games a piece, taking the overall series 4-3 and finishing up the first half of the year with a record of 54-41 and a six game lead, the largest in any division, over the second place Washington Nationals.
The All-Star break is something the Braves’ fans and players are looking forward to in order to recharge their batteries and get fully healthy before making that final push to the playoffs. So with that being said, let’s take a look at how the final series of the first half went down:
Thursday: It was Dale Murphy bobblehead night at Turner Field and the Braves couldn’t afford to lose that game, especially since they were celebrating one of the Braves all-time legends. It was also a very quirky game as well.
Although the Braves were giving away bobbleheads, they seemed to bobble (sorry for the pun) the ball and throw it away–committing an uncharacteristic three errors in the game. Luckily for the Braves that ended up not costing them the game as the Reds made two costly errors of their own.
Thursday’s game was also a game that saw Jason Heyward go down with a strained hamstring. He did not play the rest of the series, and was listed day-to-day for the remainder of the series. Hopefully with the next four days off he can rest and fully recover as the Braves will look for him to help make that push to October.
Tim Hudson wasn’t necessarily the Tim Hudson of old Thursday either as he struggled in the first inning allowing two runs before the Braves were even able to bat. But being the veteran that Hudson is, he gathered himself and was able to go seven innings and only give up four runs (three earned) while striking out five.
All-in-all the Braves walked out with a 6-5 victory over Cincinnati.
Friday: As if losing Jason Heyward wasn’t bad enough, the Braves on Friday saw both Upton brothers exit the game and were searching for anyone to play the outfield in a 4-2 loss to Cincinnati.
With a lineup of names that wouldn’t necessarily wow you, the Braves were shutdown by the stiff-legged, curveball-throwing Bronson Arroyo through seven innings. The Braves were only able to collect two runs on four hits the entire game and struggled against the crafty veteran in Bronson Arroyo and the Reds’ bullpen.
Kris Medlen was not last year’s Kris Medlen by any stretch of the imagination on Friday. Medlen labored through just four innings of work and gave up four runs on nine hits and threw 90 pitches–58 strikes. It’s safe to say that Medlen is probably one of those guys to be happy to get to All-Star and start anew in the second half.
With guys like Joey Terdoslavich playing in left and Reed Johnson in center, it can be safe to assume the Braves were happy it just was a 4-2 loss and go back to the drawing board to call-up players and figure out a better lineup for Saturday.
Saturday: With a lineup that was without Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton, the Braves were relying on Mike Minor to give them an outing that could give the Braves the best opportunity to win–and he did just that.
Minor pitched seven outstanding innings, allowing seven hits, two runs, a walk and struck out seven Reds. It was an outing the Braves really needed to give not only the bullpen some innings to rest, but also a chance for them to win and they did so by beating the Reds 5-2.
Not only did Minor do it on the mound, he also did it with the bat by driving in the go ahead RBIs to give the Braves a 3-2 on Homer Bailey who pitched well as well.
The catalyst for Saturday was Jose Constanza. Constanza went 3-4 with one RBI in his 2013 debut and really got the offense going Saturday. With no Heyward and Uptons, the Braves had to do it the old fashioned way by getting on, getting them over, and getting them in and did so in fine fashion.
Editor’s Note: I’d also like to point out that this was the first game I ever went to at Turner Field and I have to say that the Braves’ organization does it right. Coming from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, the Braves were courteous enough to give us two free tickets for me and my father and needless to say we had a blast. Everyone in the city of Atlanta as well as Turner Field was absolutely fantastic to myself and my father (a Reds fan but we won’t hold that against him, right?) and I can’t wait to go back and feel the southern hospitality again. It’s stuff like this that shows exactly why the Braves are America’s team (okay enough of me rambling on about that).
Sunday: It was the final game of the four game series and it was also the return of Evan Gattis, better known as El Oso Blanco. It was also a game where we learned that Freddie Freeman is day-to-day with a jammed thumb when he was trying to tag out a runner at first. So since he is injured, he will not be going to New York for the All-Star game and will be replaced by fellow Brave Brian McCann.
The Braves finally jumped on the scoreboard first Sunday, but the lead did not last for long as Julio Teheran pitched a game that he would most likely want to forget.
Teheran went five and third innings, gave up five runs on seven hits, allowed two home runs, walked two and struck out three. It wasn’t the best outing Teheran has had as a member of the Braves, but not everyone can be perfect all the time.
If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it again–I’m still on the Dan Uggla train. Yes, he’s going to strike out at an alarming rate, but he is also going to drive in a ton of runs and hit a lot of home runs as well. He backed that up on Saturday by striking his 17th home run and did it again on Sunday when he connected on his 18th homer.
Overall, it was a series that Braves fans and players alike are glad that it ended up being a split because it could have been a lot worse. With the Braves losing four of their best players and having to use duct tape and string to form a lineup, the Braves were able to sneak two wins out of the series and head to the All-Star break to get fully healthy.
The second half of the MLB season will be a fun one to watch if you’re a Braves fan as the Braves will be making that push towards October and hopefully continue their push to bring back a World Series to Atlanta.