Having lost two games in a row against the Miami Marlins, the Wednesday night matchup between Ervin Santana and Nathan Eovaldi was critical for the Atlanta Braves. The Braves also haven’t taken many commanding leads early in games since the All-Star break, so it was imperative that the Atlanta hitters jump on Eovaldi quickly. Luckily, they did just that by swinging early in the count. B.J. Upton doubled to lead off the game on the first pitch. Tommy La Stella bunted BJ over to third with a sacrifice on the next pitch. Then, Freddie Freeman took a walk, and Justin Upton hit a sacrifice fly to left that gave the Braves a 1-0 lead.
The Atlanta hitters continued the onslaught in the second inning as La Stella smacked a single to right center that scored Andrelton Simmons. Then, Freddie Freeman came to the plate for the second time in the game. I should mention that Freddie has been swinging a bat like Tommy Hanson over the last 7 days. Coming into this game, Freddie had been hitting .053 on the week, with no homers in the month of July. That changed in his second at-bat against the Marlins. He bashed a ball that just kept carrying over the yellow line on the left field fence, plating three runs. Just like that, the Braves had a 5-0 lead.
The game really trundled on from that point, and it never looked to be in doubt thanks to the stellar pitching by Santana. Ervin had a great night with 7.1 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 walks, 1 earned run, and 10 strikeouts. The Braves really needed that kind of start from Santana the night after Mike Minor got lit up like a Christmas tree in July. With the Nationals dropping an early day game against the Rockies, the door was open for Atlanta to squeeze back into the race. I’ll be honest, a third loss to the Marlins and a Nats win would have cast a grim shadow over this home-stand, and I’m glad it didn’t come to that.
With the score at 5-1 in favor of the Braves in the top of the eighth, Santana allowed two runners and was relieved by Jordan Walden. Even though the Marlins executed a perfect double-steal to set up two runners in scoring position, Walden managed to strike out two batters in a row to escape the inning. In the bottom half, Heyward singled and then moved around to third on a stolen base and a throwing error. Chris Johnson immediately rolled over one to the infield, and the Marlins came home to try and pick off Heyward in a rundown. However, Jason escaped on a nice swim move to beat the tag, and got back to the third base bag. That would prove to be costly for the Marlins as Gerald Laird slapped a single to center in the next at-bat, scoring Jason and making the score 6-1 Braves.
From there, the result went as expected. New rookie Chasen Shreve, a lefty reliever from AAA, got the chance to finish the game. The kid struggled a bit with some walks to put two runners on, but battled back nicely to close things out. The Braves finished with six runs on eight hits, a double, a homer, and 4-8 with RISP. Freddie Freeman gets the MVP for his first homer of the month, with a walk and three RBIs. Santana gets the honorable mention with his great night, but Freddie has been in such a stink lately that I had to give it him.