Three Cuts: Balanced Braves take two from floundering Phils
JUN 29, 2014 12:22a ET
Here are three things we gleaned from the Braves' doubleheader sweep of the Phillies -- a long, but fruitful two-fer that vanquished some of the vitriol from Philly's series sweep in Atlanta two weeks ago.
1. Freddie Freeman's uniquely cool opener had me scouring 'MLB records' Web sites for hours
In Game 1, a 10-3 rout for the Braves, Freeman amazingly scored four runs without the benefit of a single hit.
That's straight out of Barry Bonds' heyday with the Giants, you know, that carefree time in his late 30s when the slugger routinely notched 200 walks, 40-plus homers, 100 RBI, 120-plus runs, a .350-plus batting average and a ludicrous OPS in the 1.400s!
OK, so Freeman has yet to reach Bonds' strata of hitting dominance; but for one warm day in Philadelphia, the Braves basher was given the royal treatment by the Phillies pitchers (three walks) ... and first baseman Ryan Howard, whose back-to-back errors in the fourth inning (including a between-the-legs grounder from Freeman) helped Atlanta erase a 2-0 deficit.
"It changed the whole game," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg of Howard's first error, which likely would have resulted in a rally-killing double play, if fielded cleanly.
Freeman enjoyed a different kind of productivity in the nightcap, collecting two singles but not scoring once. Of course, runs were a little more scarce in Game 2 (5-1 victory for Atlanta), with the Braves needing an RBI single from Chris Johnson and two-run double from Tommy La Stella in the 6th to break a 1-all tie.
La Stella, Johnson (one run, one RBI, three hits) and Freeman were among the five Braves hitters (along with Justin Upton and Ryan Doumit) with multiple hits against the Phillies in the second game.
Subsequently, Upton and Johnson were the only Atlanta playmakers to net multiple hits in both outings.
One last note on Freeman: Since June 15, spanning 14 games, he's been hitting at a .360 clip (along with two homers, five RBI and 13 runs).
For what it's worth, Barry Bonds never posted a prodigious stretch like that in his age-24 season (1989 with the Pirates).
1a. Christian Bethancourt deserves props for getting his first major-league hit
The official characterization of Bethancourt's first MLB hit was an "infield single."
But when the 22-year-old catcher, who made his seasonal debut on Saturday, shares this tale with his grandchildren many years from now, the base hit will undoubtedly stretch to an off-the-wall double or mammoth homer.
Of course, Bethancourt's yet-to-be-born grandchildren will probably have the highlight of Career Hit No. 1 all cued up on Google Glass (or whatever technology's big with the kids in 2054) ... just in case Gramps embellishes the story a little bit.
But hey, at least Bethancourt's hit was part of a three-run parade in the 6th, helping the Braves pull away for good from the enigmatic Phillies (36-45).
2. Ervin Santana and David Hale made sure the Braves' bullpen wasn't overtaxed for the day
There's a reason why Major League Baseball avoids scheduling doubleheaders before the season. The powers-that-be fully understand April showers will invariably lead to June/July makeups -- often in the form of day-night outings (like Saturday).
There are reasons why MLB managers loathe playing two-fers, as well. It messes with the pitching rotation ... and it can unduly exhaust the bullpen when the spot starter gets blown up after two or three woeful innings.
Fortunately for the Braves, none of that really applied to Saturday's sweep, as Santana (two runs, seven hits allowed, five strikeouts over 6.2 innings) and Hale (one run, four hits allowed over five innings) efficiently mowed through the Phillies lineups, without much incident.
In Santana's case, he didn't face more than five batters in any of his final five innings. He also kept Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in check, surrendering just one hit and one run to the power duo.
As for Hale (3-2, seasonal ERA dropped to 3.02), here's the best way to encapsulate his proficient night: His final three batters (Sean O'Sullivan, Ben Revere, Jimmy Rollins) all harmlessly grounded out in the fifth inning. Clean and simple.
For what it's worth, the Atlanta bullpen pieced together 6.2 strong innings on Saturday, yielding just one run.
3. It's funny how the Braves and Nationals accomplished everything and nothing at the same time
Sweeping a doubleheader can often be a turning point in a pennant chase. But Atlanta (two victories over Philly) and Washington (two wins over the Chicago Cubs) didn't alter the standings one bit on Saturday, other than boosting the respective win tallies from 41 to 43.
The four Saturday victories did create more space between the co-leaders and the other three squads in the National League East.
But let's give Miami some credit here: No one on the planet thought the Marlins (39-42 -- 4 games back) would remain in relative contention for the division crown after ace pitcher Jose Fernandez went down with a season-ending injury.
That said, the Braves and Nationals are easy bets to further separate from the pack of also-rans in the coming weeks -- especially now that Bryce Harper (three Saturday homers in a rehab start) will soon rejoin the Washington lineup.