After nearly four hours of back-and-forth baseball, Andrelton Simmons sent the weary crowd home with a 10th inning gapper that drove Dan Uggla across the plate to give the Braves a 5-4, 10-inning win.
Simmons’ double capped a very interesting 10th inning for Atlanta, as Dan Uggla reached base for the 4th time in the game with a lead-off walk before BJ Upton failed to get a bunt down (what?!), and Reed Johnson was hit by a Mark Melancon pitch. In the end, however, the Braves shortstop finished things off, and in the process, broke the Braves curse on a night in which they left 13 men on base.
In a relative “off” night for Mike Minor (he’s been that good), he allowed 4 runs (2 earned), 4 hits, 0 walks, and struck out 6 Pirates over 6 innings. The 2 unearned runs were a result of a Dan Uggla error in the 3rd that allowed Pittsburgh to swipe a 3-0 lead after an Andrew McCutchen double, but even with that mishap, Minor produced solid numbers as usual. It really says a lot about Minor that a “down” outing can produce this type of result, and one of the great positives in this game was that he didn’t issue a walk despite some uneasy circumstances.
Minor was opposed by former Braves prospect Jeff Locke (who went to Pittsburgh in the Nate McLouth trade) and he was able to hold down the Atlanta lineup in a typical “random lefty” way. Unfortunately for Locke, his quality stat line was ruined by a big BJ Upton home run off of Ryan Reid, but for much of the night, he controlled the Braves lineup with an arsenal of well-located pitches.
One of the highlights of the evening was a rally-killing catch by Andrew McCutchen on a 9th inning blast by Freddie Freeman. With 1 out in the final regulation frame, Freeman hit a 400-foot flyball to center field that looked to be the walk-off home run that Atlanta desperately yearned for, but McCutchen had a beat on the ball as soon as it left the bat, and he brought it in right on the yellow line in center.
On the offensive side for Atlanta, it was a big night for some unlikely sources. BJ Upton broke out (or further broke out, at least) of his slump with his aforementioned home run, while Dan Uggla went 2-for-3 with 2 walks, and Simmons added a 3-for-5 day to go along with his walk-off double. In addition, Jason Heyward seems to be turning the corner, as he provided two hits for the second straight day, and really is making hard contact on a regular basis.
The bullpen was the unsung hero of the win, as four pitchers combined for four scoreless innings to close things down. Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden, and Anthony Varvaro each threw 1-2-3 innings, and while Craig Kimbrel allowed 2 baserunners (1 hit, 1 walk), he displayed a good deal of his high-end dominance in his appearance. It was great to see the new “A-Team” lock down a game, and this foursome looks to be the ideal, high-leverage group for Fredi Gonzalez.
In the end, this was a big win for the Braves. It would’ve been very difficult to swallow a loss in which the Braves left 13 men on base (and out-hit Pittsburgh 10 to 5), but the home team prevailed and the Braves got the chance to mob their young shortstop in victory.
The series finale will take place at 12:10 on Wednesday, as Julio Teheran takes on Wandy Rodriguez on getaway day. Stay tuned.