Three Cuts: Braves offense in groove with sweep of D-backs
ATLANTA -- Taking three cuts as the Braves finished off a sweep of the Diamondbacks with a 6-2 win while also paying tribute to the troops Sunday at Turner Field.
1. The offense has come alive again
Brian McCann unloaded for an opposite-field home run off Trevor Cahill in his first at-bat, then followed with a double in his next one. Freddie Freeman hit a three-run shot of his own in the third and Dan Uggla went deep in the fifth inning.
For 22 games, the Braves' bats went largely silent, but they seem to have got their groove back.
Atlanta has now hit three home runs twice in the last six games and has gone deep at least once in five of six. In all, the Braves have 27 extra base hits in 210 at-bats.
"You can't ever pick and choose when you're going to score runs," Uggla said. "You've got to grind out at-bats, you've got to battle, have some timely hitting and you've got to ride the wave when it comes."
From June 10-22 Atlanta hit .217/.296/.306 as a team with just eight home runs and averaged 2.6 runs in dropping nine of 13. But amid this recent surge they're 5-1, culminating in a sweep of the National League West-leading Diamondbacks.
It's Uggla and Jason Heyward, they of the rough Aprils and Mays that have been the biggest contributors. Uggla is hitting .347/.409/.550 with two doubles, a triple and a home run since June 22, which coincides with the second basemen getting contacts for an astigmatism. Meanwhile Heyward is at .370/.440/.682 with four doubles and a homer.
"We swung the bats extremely well this series, I thought, and we kept the line moving when hew had to," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.
2. Maholm needed this one
Granted, at 9-6 he's closing in on just the third double-digit wins season of his nine-year career and he has more victories than any other Braves starter, but Paul Maholm had settled down after totaling six wins by the end of May.
In his last six starts before Sunday, he had a 4.38 ERA in 37 innings and gave up a home run in every start, though he only took the loss twice, June 12 vs. the Padres and in June 18's doubleheader against the Mets.
Maholm stilled the D-backs, allowing two runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, while striking out there and walking two. It was his most efficient start in a win since May 22 against the Twins when he held them scoreless over 7 1/3. That also happened to be the last time he didn't give up a home run.
He got himself into trouble in the first, allowing back-to-back singles to start the game and again in the sixth, as Arizona had runners at first and third with no outs. He would minimize the damage though, getting Paul Goldscmhidt to hit into double plays in both situations.
"My goal was to get a ground ball double play and give up the one (run)," Maholm said. "I'd rather give up the one and advance the inning then sitting there trying to strike people out and end up giving up three or four and putting us in a hole."
It's in that department that Maholm continues to be at his best, matching the Astros' Lucas Harrell for the MLB lead with 17 induced double plays.
"He did a nice job getting us deep in the ballgame," Gonzalez said. "Our pitching did a nice job this whole series.
2. There's no question who got the best of the teams' January deal
For the Braves, the principal parties in the January deal with the Diamondbacks failed to make much noise Sunday as Justin Upton went 0-for-5 with a run scored and three strikeouts and Chris Johnson 1-for-3 with a walk.
But it's hard to argue that Atlanta hasn't gotten the better end of that deal that brought them Upton and Johnson for five players, including current big-leaguers Martin Prado, Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill.
In the series, Upton went 4-for-12 with three runs, an RBI and a walk, while Johnson was 3-for-9 with an RBI and three BBs as the two continued to terrorize their former club. In the six-game series, Upton is 9-for-22 (.409) with three RBI and Johnson is hitting .437 (7-for-16) with four RBI.
Prado is dependable, hitting .400 against the Braves (6-for-16) this year and he went 4-for-11 with a walk in this series. But add in that Delgado allowed eight hits and two runs in six innings -- while Julio Teheran, whom Atlanta refused to include in the deal was brilliant -- and that Spruill gave up a triple and a run in his only inning and this series showed that things are certainly leaning in the Braves' favor.