The Atlanta Braves haven’t been the beneficiary of many blowout victories this season, but on Tuesday night in San Francisco, left-hander Mike Minor combined with some solid offense for a 5-0 win that allowed Braves fans to breathe easily down the stretch.
Minor’s performance was highlighted by a stretch where he retired sixteen consecutive hitters following a Hunter Pence double in the first inning. In fact, Pence was the lone member of the Giants who did anything of note against Minor (with two of San Francisco’s three hits on the night), and through 6.2 innings of work, the left-hander allowed only five base-runners while striking out six.
Pitching has not been the issue for the Braves this season, however, and this night was even more encouraging from a standpoint of the offense. Through five innings, this game had all the makings of yet another pitcher’s duel, with only an Evan Gattis RBI triple (the first triple of his career) lighting up the scoreboard. Then, the sixth inning arrived and the bats awakened in full force.
Jason Heyward kicked off the inning with a single to right field, and he quickly advanced to second base after tagging up on a sacrifice fly from Justin Upton. Following that sequence, the most memorable play of the night took place, as Heyward scored from second base on a soft single to right by Freddie Freeman. The highlight came when Heyward deftly avoided a tag from Buster Posey despite being dead to rights (he was inexplicably sent to the plate by 3rd-base coach Doug Dascenzo), and that play seemed to light a fire under Atlanta while deflating San Francisco.
From there, Evan Gattis drew a walk, and after a fielder’s choice from Chris Johnson, the Braves put together back-to-back RBI singles from B.J. Upton and Andrelton Simmons to take an insurmountable 4-0 lead. Tuesday’s sixth inning marked the first time since April 25th (!!!) that Atlanta was able to produce a 3-run inning offensively, and it was much needed. Each member of the lineup (with the exception of Minor) reached base with a hit, and it was a quality, balanced attack against Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong.
The Braves and Giants will be back at it on Wednesday afternoon (3:45 pm first pitch on the east coast) for the series finale, and hopefully, the offense will take its cue from the relative explosion from Tuesday evening.