Three Cuts: Upton lifts Braves to sixth straight win
ATLANTA — The Braves got a great crowd for Saturday’s game (32,727) considering all the things going on in Atlanta this weekend — DragonCon, NASCAR and the start of college football. There may not be a bigger college football fan than Braves pitcher Tim Hudson who pitched for Auburn in 1996-97. So it was probably a big thrill for him to serve as honorary team captain at Auburn’s season opener against Washington State.
Hudson, who’s currently on the disabled list with a fractured ankle, is working toward his degree from Auburn and recently donated $1 million to the Tigers baseball team.
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Back at Turner Field, the Braves knocked off the Marlins 5-4 in 11 innings for their sixth straight win. The Braves finish the month of August 20-7, their first 20-win month since May 2010. It was the 22nd time this season the team has won a game on its final at bat.
Here are three thoughts from Saturday’s dramatic victory.
We have a B.J. Upton sighting
It seems like B.J. Upton has been on the verge of getting into a groove several times this season only to fall back into a hitless streak. Maybe things are different this time. Upton now has a hit in four straight games and went 4-for-6 on Saturday after striking out in his first two at bats.
A two-run, game tying homer in the sixth inning off Marlins starter Jacob Turner kicked things off. It was Upton’s first dinger since hitting two against San Francisco on June 15th. JUNE 15!
“I’ve been working hard all year and I’m finally starting to see some consistent results,” said Upton. “The season’s not over I’m going to keep working hard and stick with what I’m doing.”
In the 7th inning, he had a two-out, line drive off Donovan Solano’s glove at second for a base hit that kept the inning alive (Andrelton Simmons struck out to end the frame). Upton added another hit in the 10th and had the game-winning single that scored pinch-runner Paul Janish in the 11th. It was his first multi-hit game since going 4-for-5 against the Nationals on August 7.
“I just try to stay the course and not do too much. We’ve got a very good ball club. It’s not going to be one guy every night and it just so happens tonight was my night.”
The walk-off hit was the eighth of his career.
“The first couple of months of the season he’s had tough months, but you know what, nobody remembers what you did in April, May and June if everything goes well and we go where we want to go and he continues to swing the bat,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez. “That’s what’s going to be remembered. Those are good things.”
Mike Minor continues to benefit from run support
Mike Minor had another solid outing, going seven innings while allowing five hits — two of them homers — and four earned runs. But he continues to be the lucky member of the Braves pitching staff as far as run support.
The Braves have scored three runs or less in each of the four previous games of the home stand. Saturday they finished with five, their most since scoring five in the Cardinals’ series finale on Sunday when — you guessed it — Mike Minor pitched seven innings and gave up one run for his 13th win of the season.
“Had a shaky first inning, but felt like after that it was pretty good,” said Minor. “Bullpen had my back and B.J comes up big with a home run. Pretty much the whole team had something to do with this win.”
His manager echoed his comments.
“(Minor) was outstanding and out bullpen did a heck of a job to hold them to no runs the rest of the way.”
Schafer is feast or famine
As the old saying goes — you can’t steal first. That’s too bad for Jordan Schafer because when he reaches base in this series, he usually ends up swiping an extra bag.
In three games of this home stand Schafer has gone 0-for-4, but in the other two he’s lighting it up.
On Wednesday against the Indians, he was 3-for-4 with 2 RBI and two stolen bases. Saturday against the Marlins he reached base four times, twice on Florida errors, and was running on three occasions — he stole two bases (his 16th and 17th of the year) and was caught stealing on the other attempt.
“I just run,” said Schafer. “As soon as I find a pitch that’s a good pitch to run on I take off. I don’t try to waste any time or waste any pitches. I’m not there for decoration or to just stand around at first or second my job’s to get in scoring position and I try to take off as soon as possible.”
He came around to score on a Freddie Freeman sacrifice fly in the first inning after his first stolen base of the night.
Extra innings tidbit
Elliott Johnson played his first game in the outfield since joining the Braves and made two tremendous diving catches. He robbed Placido Polanco in the fourth inning and Donovan Solano in the 10th.
“He was outstanding,” said Gonzalez. “I’d never seen him play in the outfield and he was really, really good. If you didn’t know that wasn’t his primary position you’d walk in today thinking this guy’s a pretty good left fielder.”
Johnson has played every infield and outfield spot over four season in the majors.