May 18, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcherEvan Gattis
(24) celebrates with center fielderB.J. Upton
(2) after hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
For 7 innings, the story of Friday night’s game between the Braves and Dodgers looked to be centered around Chris Capuano‘s dominance and a highlight-reel catch by Matt Kemp to steal a home run from Jason Heyward. Then, Evan Gattis emerged from the Braves dugout and changed the narrative with one swing of the bat.
After a 1-out single from BJ Upton (which is breaking news in itself), Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly took to the mound and removed the lights-out Capuano for his best relief pitcher, Kenley Jansen, as the Braves announced Evan Gattis as a pinch-hitter. Gattis then saw 7 pitches from Jansen, including three straight foul balls, before sending a screaming line-drive over the left-field wall to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
It was the perfect storm for Gattis, as he is a pure fastball hitter facing a pure fastball pitcher in Jansen, and he took advantage in the biggest way possible. After the 2-run, game-changing blast, shortstop Andrelton Simmons took the next pitch from Jansen over the left-field wall (in much the same fashion as the ball from Gattis), and with the back-to-back home runs, the Braves were staked to a 3-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Following the 3-run 8th inning, Craig Kimbrel took to the mound in the 9th and unceremoniously mowed down the Dodgers 3-4-5 hitters in order, with a groundout and 2 strikeouts against Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Skip Schumaker. It was the second straight night with a save from Kimbrel, who has now lowered his previously questionable ERA to 2.76.
The unsung hero of the night was Braves starter Kris Medlen, who was tremendous for the great majority of his performance. Medlen tossed 7 innings of 2-hit ball, allowing only a single unearned run (on a 4th-inning error by Justin Upton), and striking out 5 batters. He wasn’t able to grab the pitcher “win”, as he left the game with a 1-0 deficit, but it was great to see Medlen excel and that is encouraging for the future.
Don Mattingly will surely come under fire for his late pitching change (which, for the record, was the right move in my opinion), but regardless, Chris Capuano was tremendous. It is troubling to see the Braves hitters continue to struggle against various left-handed starting pitching, but this isn’t a new phenomenon against Capuano. He entered the night with a 2.75 career ERA against Atlanta, and it was almost predictable that he would mow through the offense. Fortunately, his performance went to waste as the heroics of Gattis and Simmons shined through.
It was a wild win at Turner Field, and frankly, it had the feel of a high-leverage heist for Atlanta. For the majority of the night, the Braves were outplayed by Los Angeles, but they made the plays when needed and got a high-level pitching performance from Medlen, Cory Gearrin (who was lights-out in his one inning), and Kimbrel to spark the victory. The legend of Evan Gattis continues to grow, and this may have been the crown jewel in his early season breakout. Stay tuned as the series wraps up on Sunday afternoon with Mike Minor squaring off against Matt Magill.