The Atlanta Braves opened Monday night with a bang against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first inning was jam-packed with offense as the Braves pushed across several runs before the Pirates were even allowed to bat. Jason Heyward led off the game with a solo homer to deep right field. Then, Andrelton Simmons backed him up by hitting a solo homer to left-center. It’s been a while since the Braves had back to back jacks, but they were warmly received by Braves Country. After that, Freddie Freeman walked, Justin Upton singled, and Chris Johnson hit an infield single that scored Freeman. Just like that it was 3-0 Braves and they weren’t done.
Tommy La Stella struck out on three straight pitches in probably his worst AB in a long time. But big Gerald Laird was there to pick him up, singling in Justin Upton in the next AB. Emilio Bonafacio walked, bringing Ervin Santana to the plate. It’s always a good thing when your starting pitcher has to hit before he has to pitch in a game. Ervin slapped a fielders choice that scored Chris Johnson, and a throwing error by the Pirates plated another run. After all the dust cleared, the Braves batted around in the first inning, and they led 6-0.
Many of you may remember the last time that Ervin Santana was staked to a large lead, and you won’t remember it because it was a dance around the maypole in a field of posies. It was against Boston on May 26th, a day which will live in infamy. The Braves led 6-1 going into the fifth inning, and Santana decided to give up five runs, leading to an eventual Braves loss 8-6. Why do I bring this up? Because Ervin was never comfortable out there on the mound, and many fans mentally went right back to that game.
Santana gave up his first homer in the second inning to Starling Marte. He gave up the second homer in the third inning to Neal Walker. He gave up the third homer in the fourth inning to Starling Marte again. At this point, I was fully against pitching to Starling Marte for the rest of the game. Because, you know, HOMERS. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, Marte, shame on me. Fool me three times, and I’m blaming Fredi Gonzalez for not yanking the starter. But as usual, fans started to panic as the game got closer, and Santana struggled a bit to get batters out economically.
That being said, Santana survived his way into the sixth inning when he was eventually yanked by Fredi after giving up two straight doubles. Luckily, the runner on second had to hold on the second one, so that put runners at second and third with just one out. Much to the ire of people with a knowledge of stats, Fredi brought in Luis Avilan. Like many moves Fredi makes with the bullpen that seem to make no sense, the Braves completely lucked out. The Pirates hit a frozen rope right to third base on the fly, Chris Johnson caught it and then doubled off the runner on second. Threat over.
The Braves seemed completely uninterested in scoring after the first inning. That was probably the biggest downside of the game. However, in the eighth inning the Braves loaded the bases on three straight singles, and Jason Heyward knocked in another run with a sacrifice fly to right. That would make extend the cushion to 7-3 Braves. It also meant that the game was beyond Craig Kimbrel‘s reach for saves going into the ninth inning. James Russell closed out the eighth and the ninth innings to give the Braves their fourth win in a row.
In total the team had 15 hits, 2 homers, 2 walks, and went 3-9 with RISP. The MVP of the game was Jason Heyward who had the homer, the sacrifice fly, and three total hits for two RBIs. A great day for Heyward out of the leadoff spot. The Braves play the Pirates again tomorrow with Aaron Harang against Francisco Liriano. Don’t miss it!