1. The late, great Earl Weaver would have reveled in the Braves' homer-happy approach to victory
How crazy was that Wrigley Field wind early in the game?
Chris Johnson and starting pitcher Mike Minor accounted for the Braves' homer production on Saturday, with Johnson (two runs, four RBI) connecting on a pair and Minor belting his second career dinger (his first came on May 25, 2013 against the Mets).
Those three power swings helped Atlanta post nine runs through four innings -- giving the club a cushion it would never relinquish.
In the second inning, Johnson's two-run homer briefly tied the game at 2. But the real talking point occurred when a Bleacher Bum in the Wrigley stands caught the long ball with his glove ... and then pulled the old switcheroo on the Chicago faithful, stealthily trading Johnson's ball with a regular one from his shorts pocket ... before tossing the other ball back onto the playing field.
And he would have gotten away with it ... if the Fox Sports South cameras hadn't caught the gentleman in the act.
Then, two innings later, FOX Sports South's own Tom Hart actually flagged him down for an in-game interview, where the longtime Cubs fan revealed that Johnson's homer had become the 28th ball of his lifetime Wrigley Field collection.
Back to the game ...
In the 3rd, B.J. Upton led off with a double to left field and scored a few minutes later, thanks to Andrelton Simmons' RBI single.
That set the stage for the Braves' six-run eruption in the 4th -- a power-packed inning that included two homers (Johnson, Minor), five hits and brought 10 men to the plate. In fact, Minor's blast off Cubs starter Edwin Jackson (nine runs allowed over 3.2 innings) and Justin Upton's bases-clearing double (scoring B.J. Upton, Simmons, Freddie Freeman) both occurred with two outs.
Throw in a pair of insurance runs in the 9th -- thanks to RBI singles from Justin Upton and Jason Heyward -- and you have a well-earned victory for the Braves (51-43) that was equal parts taxing and academic.
In his postgame address, Minor was obviously thrilled to go deep at such a revered stadium. But he wasn't necessarily shocked to accomplish the feat, either.
"Only (the 2013 homer against the Mets) surprised me, because I didn't think I could hit the ball that far," said Minor.
2. Batting heroics aside, Minor also made a little personal history on the mound
Saturday marked Minor's 99th career start in the majors; and of the previous 98 outings, Minor (six earned runs, 11 hits allowed vs. the Cubs) had never collected a "W" when surrendering double-digit hits.
"It was pretty much a slugfest for both teams," said Minor, who improved his seasonal mark to 3-5.
Here's another quirky stat: Minor has already allowed 11 hits in four starts this year. Of his first four seasons in the majors (2010-13), the opposition had racked up 11 or more hits against Minor (five strikeouts, one walk, zero homers allowed) just once.
Of course, the Braves probably don't care that Saturday's victory wasn't a flawless work of art. It was one of those crazy, wind-affected grinder games ... and dare we say it -- a must-win for a club that momentarily grabbed first place in the National League East.
3. This seems like a good time to praise the Atlanta bullpen for its stellar work over the last 30 days
On Saturday, the tandem of David Hale (one inning) and David Carpenter (two-inning save) effectively shut the Cubs down, allowing zero runs and just one walk over three solid innings.
That one-day dominance runs in concert with the Braves' sterling relief numbers since June 12:
Shae Simmons -- 1-0, 1.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 14/5 K-BB, .167 opponents' batting average Anthony Varvaro -- 2-1, 1.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 12/4 K-BB, .237 OBA Jordan Walden -- 2 saves, 1.98 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 18/5 K-BB, .235 OBA Luis Avilan -- 3.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .257 OBA Craig Kimbrel -- 10 saves, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 16/4 K-BB, .119 OBA