Three Cuts: Braves drop Mets for sweep, seventh straight win
JUL 02, 2014 11:23p ET
ATLANTA -- In a stretch tailor-made for the Braves to go into the All-Star break with momentum -- and the National League East lead -- on their side, they continued to take advantage.
Behind another strong start from Julio Teheran and timely hitting, Atlanta beat the Mets 3-1 to win their seventh straight and hold serve with the Nationals, who won their fifth in a row, beating the Rockies 4-3. The Braves remain half a game up in the division.
Here are three thoughts from a day at Turner Field that opened with over 1,000 candidates becoming American citizens and ended with the Braves extending their longest streak of the season:
1. Offense continues to do its damage under pressure
With the bases loaded in the first inning, the Braves proceeded to see Justin Upton strike out looking and Jason Heyward fly out to right field. But as the lineup has done with consistency in this series, the degree of difficulty only set the stage for more offensive damage.
Chris Johnson lined a 2-2 changeup off Jacob deGrom toward Mets third baseman Eric Campbell -- placing in place of perennial All-Star David Wright, who is out for the series with a bruised left rotator cuff -- and Campbell's stab at the one-hopper came up empty as the ball skipped into left field.
"I wanted to see all of what (deGrom) had and I was able to get a ball out over the plate and luckily got it down," Johnson said.
That's a major departure for a team that came into Wednesday 23rd in the majors with 115 of their 308 runs coming with one out to play with, but since Christian Bethancourt's RBI single in the second inning Tuesday, the Braves continued to deliver with limited margin for error.
"It means we're not giving up," Johnson said. "Just because there's two outs doesn't mean we can't get some runs on the board. There's really no quit in this team."
While Freeman, who has 16 two-out RBI, and Johnson (15) are among the top three Braves, the team's leader has been surprisingly quiet during the streak. But Justin Upton, who has 18 RBI with two outs, is 1 for 14 after going 10 for 28 from June 22-28.
Another way of looking at is that with Upton quiet and Evan Gattis on the 15-day disabled list, the Braves are generating clutch runs without their No. 1 (Upton at 46) and No. 3 (Gattis with 39) RBI men. Two of their RBI came courtesy of Simmons, who had six in the first 66 games and Johnson's three-run double Wednesday matched his season-high for RBI.
2. Teheran continues to make his All-Star case
If momentum leading into Sunday's announcement of the All-Star teams means anything, Julio Teheran is making quite a case for himself.
The 23-year-old allowed four hits and one run over seven innings, striking out three with two walks to improve to 8-5 with a 2.29 ERA.
"He battled," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "He gave us seven strong innings."
On the season only the Reds' Johnny Cueto (1.99) and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (2.01) have better ERAs than Teheran's 2.34. He's third in WHIP at 0.973, trailing Cueto (0.87) and Wainwright (0.90) and fourth in batting average against at .210.
But Teheran has been even better over his last four starts, allowing a combined six runs with 29 strikeouts and four walks. Wednesday he flashed a part of his game that has been among the best in baseball the past two seasons as he got Eric Young Jr. in a rundown with a pickoff move in the sixth.
The biggest bit of drama came in the fourth inning, when Teheran took a liner off his leg. But after a visit a couple of test pitches, he opted to stay in the game, going three more innings.
"It was burning ... but I wanted to keep pitching," Teheran said. "I was just trying to focus on the game."
On normal five-day's rest, Tehearn is in line for two more starts before the break, July 8 vs. the Mets, against whom he's now 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and the Cubs, whom he hasn't faced since April 6, 2013. But it's this one against New York that was his final -- and if the numbers mean anything -- crowning statement.
"He's continually doing his All-Star self and hopefully he goes to the All-Star game," Johnson said.
3. Your B.J. Upton at leadoff update ...
Make it nine straight games with a hit since moving atop the order as Upton singled to left. It extended his longest streak in a Braves uniform and is one off the career record of 10 he set four times with the Rays, most recently May 17-27, 2012.
It hasn't been as noticeable since he joined the Braves -- largely a byproduct of his struggles the past season and a half -- but Upton's streakiness has been his trademark.
In his career, he's had 162 instances of a hit in at two or more consecutive games, accounting for 618 games.
This is clearly one of those runs he's putting together, one that is making him look like a solid choice at leadoff. Add in that in seven of the nine games he's scored a run, and it makes it seem an even better fit.
Here's something to keep in mind though: Upton has 133 instances of going hitless in at least three straight and he's had streaks of 10, nine and five as a Brave. The longest this year has been just three games (June 4-8), so maybe we are looking at the possibility that Upton is turning the corner.