While Chris Johnson delivered his seventh three-hit game of the season and Evan Gattis pushed his streak to 10 straight, it was undeniably Gavin Floyd who was the man of the moment for the Braves.
He picked up his first victory in an Atlanta uniform — and first in 613 calendar days — keeping the Rockies bats in check in a 3-1 win that kept the Braves atop the National League East.
Here are three observations from Coors Field:
Gavin Floyd hadn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his first six starts and four times he gave up two or less. Still, he remained winless despite a 2.80 ERA in a Braves uniform.
But with 6 2/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball — and an assist from what’s been a porous bullpen of late — Floyd (1-3) broke through for his first victory in 12 starts. The last came on Oct. 3, 2012 against the Indians.
Granted, his ’13 was cut short after five outings with an elbow injury that would require Tommy John surgery, but Floyd was still mired in the longest drought of his career, just edging out the 11 starts he made without a win from Aug. 5, 2007-April 5, 2008.
Floyd didn’t allow a runner past second until Corey Dickerson led off the seventh inning with a home run, striking out four in the process with three walks.
It was his fourth quality start of the season and an impressive rebound after giving up 10 hits and three runs in five innings his last time out against the Mariners last Tuesday. Floyd held a Rockies offense that had averaged 6.2 runs per game at home to one, the fourth time all season Colorado had scored just once at Coors Field.
But just as important as Floyd’s performance was that he was backed by a strong performance from the bullpen.
After issuing a walk to DJ LeMahieu with two outs in the seventh, Floyd was replaced by Luis Avilan. The left-hander has struggled with a 4.95 ERA on the season, and seemed headed for more trouble after issuing a double to Brandon Barnes that put the tying run on third.
He would get Charlie Blackmon to ground out to end the inning, then Shae Simmons followed with a perfect eighth, setting the stage for Craig Kimbrel’s 17th save of the season.
It was a steady, drama-filled back end of the game, one that hasn’t come easily of late, as the relievers posted a 6.03 ERA over the previous 12 games.
He’s atypical for the spot in the order — at 6-foot-5, Jason Heyward made MLB history as the tallest Opening Day leadoff hitter ever — but with 89 games under his belt atop the order over the past two seasons, it’s impossible to ignore how effective he’s been.
Heyward went 1 for 4 with a walk Tuesday, making it 12 out of the last 13 games in which he’s reached base safely. In doing so, he pushed his OBP to .341, a number that sits 13th overall this season.
That may not seem overly impressive, but in June, Heyward’s OBP is .363 after a .373 May, a strong rebound from his April figure of .296.
Add in what Heyward’s done since becoming the Braves full-time No. 1 hitter since July 27 and he’s produced a .384 OBP, which ranks as third-highest over the past two seasons among leadoff men with at least 225 at-bats. He trails only the Reds/Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo (.427) and Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter (.395).
Delivering runs with two outs has been a problem for the Braves this season, who entered Monday with 68 RBI with one out to play with, last in the NL and the second-fewest in the majors and just ahead of the Astros’ 66.
But Chris Johnson plated Freddie Freeman on a single to center field to go up 2-0, and — more to the point here — he did so with two outs, continuing a recent trend of strong play in those situations for Atlanta.
The Braves scored four runs with two outs Sunday in Arizona and did so twice on Saturday and once Friday. Add in one run last Tuesday against the Mariners, and they have come through with nine of their last 20 runs with two outs.
Considering Atlanta has produced 32.3 percent of those runs — by comparison, the Giants lead the NL with 46 percent — a number that sits at 45 over the last six games is progress, even if it does come in a small sample size.