Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ervin Santana (30) celebrates scoring on an error by New York Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (not pictured) with right fielder Jason Heyward (22) and center fielder B.J. Upton (2) during the third inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
One night after a near no-hitter from Aaron Harang highlighted a win for the Atlanta Braves, starting pitching again keyed the Braves in toppling an opponent, as Ervin Santana combined with some timely hitting to send the New York Mets to a 7-5 defeat.
Santana, who had been utterly lights-out in his previous two outing in an Atlanta uniform, threw well once again here. The big right-hander navigated 7 innings of 1-run ball, allowing only 6 hits and 2 walks to go along with 7 strikeouts, and he was extremely effective in escaping danger throughout the outing. Santana allowed a base-runner in 6 of the 7 innings that he completed, including the lead-off batter in 4 out of the 7, but his ability to hold the Mets to a 1-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position allowed him to stay relatively spotless.
With the bats, Freddie Freeman continued his incredible early season streak with a couple of big knocks. Atlanta’s scoring began with an infield single by Freeman in which 2 runs scored thanks to a Bartolo Colon throwing error, but after that, Freddie roped an RBI double in the 5th (scoring Jason Heyward) for a bit of insurance, and he finished off a 3-for-4 night (including an intentional walk in the 9th) to raise his slash line to an absurd .413/.493/.746 on the season.
Aside from Freeman, 7 of the 8 members of Atlanta’s lineup (sorry, Evan Gattis) contributed at least one hit to the proceedings, and Justin Upton had the biggest night of them all with an emphasis on his final plate appearance. Upton took advantage of an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman in the 9th inning, and with 2 aboard, he blasted a 3-run bomb off of Jose Valverde for his 3rd hit of the night. The offense isn’t exactly scorching at this moment, but with the pitching going the way it is, it was more than enough to escape with another win, especially with the late insurance.
On the somewhat negative side, the lead got a bit too close for comfort in the 8th inning, and that was courtesy of David Carpenter. The set-up man allowed 4 hits (including a lead-off infield single that wasn’t exactly his fault) and 2 runs to the Mets, and frankly, it could have been much, much worse. New York’s Lucas Duda blasted a 1-out offering from Carpenter that the entire MLB world thought was a 3-run home run, but Jason Heyward settled underneath it for the 2nd out, and total disaster was averted. When Carpenter exited, the Braves held the lead, but with Justin Upton‘s aforementioned home run, the stage was set for Craig Kimbrel in his return.
It was the first appearance in a full week for Kimbrel after reported shoulder soreness, and while he looked to be throwing at full strength, he wasn’t sharp by his standards. After inducing a ground-out to open his outing, he hit Eric Young, Jr. with a pitch (grazed is a better word), and after a single by Daniel Murphy and an RBI double from David Wright, the lead was down to 7-4. The flame-thrower did rebound a bit with a strikeout of Curtis Granderson, but an RBI single from Chris Young and a walk to Lucas Duda made things far too interesting, which led to Kimbrel’s exit after 24 pitches. Fortunately, Jordan Walden entered the game and induced a ground ball to Andrelton Simmons, which is perfect recipe for a game-closing out.
The starting pitching, as a whole, has been completely dominant in recent days, going seven consecutive starts with just one run or fewer against them. Obviously, a bit of regression is in the offing for that group, but this is once again a monster rotation put together by Frank Wren and company, and Braves Country can take solace in that moving forward, especially with a 2.5-game lead in place at this moment.