With an 11.5 game lead in their division, the Braves have margin for error. This margin allowed Fredi Gonzalez to experiment in a few different ways during Saturday’s 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. Fredi stuck with starter Brandon Beachy allowing him to pitch 6 1/3 innings despite some early struggles and an opportunity to pinch hit for Beachy with a runner on third and two outs in the fifth. Beachy came back strong after allowing three runs in the first two innings including a monster two run homer to John Mayberry Jr.
After the home run to Mayberry in the second, Beachy settled in and pitched four shutout innings. The Braves managed to recover from their early deficit as they have done habitually this season. Justin Upton hit a solo homer in the 3rd to cut the lead to 3-1. Upton’s homer was his third this month, giving Braves fans hope that Justin can make his August as dominant as his April was. The Braves tied the game in the fifth via a Freddie Freeman bases loaded single that scored Joey Terdoslavich and Andrelton Simmons. Evan Gattis followed Freeman’s single with a soft ground ball to second base which allowed Justin Upton to score from third and put the Braves in front 4-3.
Beachy was cruising into the 7th when he allowed a leadoff single to Mayberry. Carloz Ruiz sacrificed Mayberry to second and the Phillies playing for one run allowed them to score exactly that. Beachy was removed for another bit of experimentation from Fredi, who brought in Luis Ayala with a one run lead in the 7th. Ayala allowed a two out double to Jimmy Rollins to tie the game, which is where things remained into extra innings.
The Braves bullpen was dominant allowing only two hits in 6 2/3 of an inning. The Braves finally broke through with their bats in the top of the 12th inning. Justin Upton led off the inning with a walk. A Freddie Freeman grounder advanced Upton to second with one out, at which point Charlie Manuel went into overmanaging mode. Manuel walked Gattis intentionally, which was followed by a four pitch unintentional walk to Paul Janish. Janish was in the game as a replacement for Chris Johnson who had been lifted for a pinch runner in the 10th. Despite being a defensive replacement who does not have a hit this year, Phillies pitcher Jake Diekman was unable to throw a strike to Janish. Dan Uggla drove in the winning run by beating out a double play grounder with the bases loaded. An excellent take out slide by Janish made it difficult for Utley to get much on his throw.
Craig Kimbrel came on to pitch the bottom of the 12th. Kimbrel allowed a leadoff single but had no trouble after that closing the game for the Braves ninth consecutive victory. Brian McCann had the day off and Jason Heyward only entered in the 9th. The Braves will go for their 10th straight victory and series sweep against Cliff Lee on Sunday afternoon.