Three Cuts: Balanced Braves down D-backs for 8th straight win
JUL 04, 2014 11:11p ET
ATLANTA -- Here are three things we gleaned from the Braves' 5-2 win over the Diamondbacks, extending Atlanta's winning streak to a season-high eight games and marking the second time the Braves have been 10 games above .500.
Let's also give kudos to the Fourth of July revelers for coming in droves to Turner Field on Friday, setting a season-high attendance record (48,815):
1. Don't let the three-run spread fool you ... this was one over very, very early
It's fun to tune into Atlanta sports radio and listen to fans gripe about certain aspects of the Braves' season -- whether it's Fredi Gonzalez's managerial acumen, the 2-hole in the lineup having a Bermuda Triangle-like feel or how the pitching rotation needs a true No. 1 starter to reach the World Series (apparently Julio Teheran isn't old enough to be a workhorse).
At various times of the season, the above complaints might have validity.
On the flip side, how would you like to be an Arizona fan right now? Wayyyyyyyy back in March, some national pundits had the Diamondbacks tabbed as serious contenders for the National League West title, or a wild-card slot, at the very least.
The reasons for such optimism: Paul Goldschmidt (36 homers, 125 RBI, 103 runs, 15 steals, .302 batting, .401 OPS in 2013) might have felt jilted out of last year's National League MVP trophy, stud pitcher Archie Bradley was a relative shoo-in to make the D-backs' starting rotation and the front office was riding high from executing two deals in the offseason -- trading for slugger Mark Trumbo and closer Addison Reed.
And yet, the 2014 campaign has been an unmitigated flop for Kirk Gibson's Diamondbacks, with the club sitting in dead last in the NL West (36-52) and perhaps needing a substantial upgrade with their pitchers.
For example, Josh Collmenter has arguably been the team's best pitcher this year, entering Friday with respectable tallies with wins (seven), ERA (3.74) and WHIP (1.24).
But the Braves (48-38, 1st place in NL East) carved up Collmenter rather easily, scoring four runs in the first two innings (two apiece) and notching 11 hits (the most the 28-year-old righty had surrendered all year).
And for the night, B.J. Upton (more on him later), Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman, Tommy La Stella and Gerald Laird racked up multiple hits. (Chris Johnson was the only 1-8 starter to not register at least one hit.)
There was one moment of tension, however: In the eighth inning, Goldschmidt's RBI double off Braves reliever Jordan Walden trimmed the deficit to 5-2 and thrusted Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero into the spot of representing the tying run at the plate.
But he struck out for the 62nd time this season, effectively ending Arizona's only major rally of the evening.
2. Ervin Santana's mid-May implosion was apparently nothing more than a 10-day funk
It's been a good six-week stretch for Santana, who allowed just two runs and six hits over 7 1/3 superb innings on Friday -- his longest outing since April 9 (season debut vs. Mets).
Since May 31, the veteran pitcher has tallied three wins, a 3.79 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 38/12 K-BB ratio -- a considerable upgrade from the three wretched outings in May that resulted in 17 earned runs allowed.
For the night, Santana never faced more than five Diamondbacks in a single frame; and from innings 3-7 (beginning with a Goldschmidt strikeout to end the 3rd), Santana enjoyed a prolific stretch of 14 hitters and 13 retired -- with a walk to former Brave Martin Prado serving as the span's only glitch.
In fact, Arizona didn't even make contact at the plate to earn its first run in the 2nd. A Santana wild pitch enabled Prado to score from third base.
"It's a shame (Santana) gave up two runs -- one on a wild pitch and one on a (fielder's choice)," said Gonzalez in his postgame address. "If not, he might have thrown a shutout today."
The affable and perpetually low-key Santana seemed reasonably content with Friday's outing, lamenting how "everything's coming back my way again." But it's not like his postgame demeanor changes much, through thick and thin.
"I just keep working hard, keep trying to get the ball down in the zone," said Santana, who threw strikes on 67 of his 108 pitches.
Of course, it also helps when you're operating with a three-run cushion early in a game.
"Every time we (score early) like that, it's good for me and it's good for the team," Santana said.
3. B.J. Upton's latest hit streak of 10 games might be his least productive of the bunch
The above statement read a little awkward. After all, there's no such thing as a bad hitting streak. But when compared to the other streaks from 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012 ... the 2014 version lags behind the group.
Not that Fredi Gonzalez cares much about that.
"He's hitting the ball well" and getting good bounces now, says Gonzalez. "Earlier in the year, (B.J. was) hitting the ball as hard as I've ever seen him hit it."
Here's the breakdown of the Upton streaks (all career highs):
1 -- April 27-May 8 (2007)
Three homers, seven RBI, six runs, three steals, 17 hits, .447 batting, 1.263 OPS
2 -- May 17-27 (2012)
Two homers, four RBI, eight runs, six steals, 17 hits, .405 batting, 1.075 OPS
3 -- May 27-June 9 (2009)
One homer, six RBI, seven runs, three steals, 13 hits, .371 batting, 1.019 OPS
4 -- Aug. 9-19 (2010)
One homer, two RBI, seven runs, three steals, 13 hits, .351 batting, 1.009 OPS
5 -- June 24-July 4 (2014)
Zero homers, three RBI, eight runs, three steals (including one Friday), 11 hits, .268 batting, .689 OPS
There are two saving graces here: For starters, only Streak #5 has the potential to extend to 11 or more games; and the Braves are 8-2 during Upton's latest stab at Joe DiMaggio's (seemingly unbreakable) record of 56 consecutive games with at least one hit.