Three Cuts: Braves set tone, take series opener vs. Cards
ATLANTA -- The Cardinals came into Turner Field as the true measuring stick for a Braves team that sits comfortably atop the game's worst division.
One game in, Atlanta showed it measures up.
Mike Minor delivered a gem of a performance as he tries to establish himself as the staff's ace after Tim Hudson's season-ending injury, going seven innings and allowing four hits and one run -- on Yadier Molina's second-inning home run -- as the Braves won 4-1 and Minor improved to 10-5 with a 2.89 ERA.
"On a big stage facing one of the best teams in Major League Baseball, he did a heluva job for us," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Minor set the tone as the Braves opened their series against St. Louis, owner of the best record in baseball. Here are three cuts from Atlanta's win.
1. The Braves are getting to Wainwright
Adam Wainwright came in going for a National League-leading 14th win of the season and riding an eight-game road winning streak that was the best in the NL and the longest for a Cardinal since Chris Carpenter won 10 in a row in (2009-10). A former first-round draft pick by the Braves in 2010, he has been dominant at Turner Field, going 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA.
But he would leave with his second consecutive loss to the Braves -- the last coming on May 12, 2012 -- and his first overall since June 23 vs. the Rangers as Atlanta pounded out seven hits, including Jason Heyward's solo home run in the fifth inning.
"I got a pitch to hit," Heyward said. "He made a mistake on the changeup away."
While the Braves did add their 125th homer of the season, second-best in the majors, they took control largely by playing small ball against the Cy Young candidate.
After a Brian McCann double and a single by Dan Uggla in the second, Chris Johnson drove home McCann to tie the game at 1-1. Jose Constanza kept the inning alive, beating out a potential double play at first base as Minor drove home Uggla with a single to left to give Atlanta the lead for good.
The Braves have now tagged Wainwright for 16 combined hits in their last two starts against him and he has an ERA of 6.17.
"I think I just have to tip my hat," Wainwright said. "I think they had a great approach from the first pitch of the game on.
"They took some great at-bats off me, worked the counts, and they didn't get pull-happy out there. Really, they hit some tough pitches and worked some tough at-bats. Sometimes you just get beat. I had some pretty good stuff tonight."
2. Defense? No problem but Heyward still searching for consistency at the plate
If anyone needed another reminder why there's gold stitching on Jason Heyward's glove -- especially after Monday night's incredible game-saving feat of defense -- the right fielder gave it, diving forward to catch David Freese's opposite field liner in the fifth inning.
"This team has a really good approach, going the other way, and that's one thing I do look forward to on nights like that because I know the ball is going to be hit my way," Heyward said. "(I) just try to get good jumps ... and use (their approach) to my advantage."
Heyward would own that inning, adding that aforementioned eight home run of the season in the bottom half, but it was just his second in 80 plate appearances. He has a 2.3 home run percentage, which is below the league average.
He came into Friday hitting .184/.310/.306 in July with a double, a triple and a home run and this comes after a June in which he looked to be finding his rhythm at .312/.370/.495. On the season, he's at .223/.326/.371.
Granted, Heyward has missed games, 23 from April-May (appendectomy) and six in July (hamstring), with that strong month of July the only month he hasn't missed any time with injury and his defense has rarely been of any concern. But consistently at the plate continues to be his most nagging deficiency, and amid an erratic year, a night in which he goes deep and makes the impressive play on defense can do a lot to mask it.
He may well win another Gold Glove, but overall there's no denying this remains an odd year for Heyward, whose current 1.6 WAR would be the lowest of his four-year career.
3. In the (Waffle) House
There are 381 Waffle House locations in Georgia and 132 in Atlanta and the metro area, well, make those numbers 382 and 133.
Friday marked opening of a Waffle House in Turner Field, though to be fair it's probably better described as a Waffle Hut. This version of the Southern institution -- it's headquartered in Norcross, Ga. -- features a scaled-down menu with classic, peanut butter and chocolate chip waffles, as well as hashbrowns that you can have plain or "All The Way," which includes onions, cheese, chili, ham and peppers.
And of course, fitting the ballpark experience, the prices are inflated. Those "All The Way" hashbrowns would typical run you a little north of $4.00 (prices do vary by location), but at Turner Field, they're $9.00.
Of course, the lingering debate is whether baseball fans have been waiting to add breakfast (or late, late night food) like waffles and hashbrowns to their typical hotdog and hamburger fare.
The verdict is out, though in a stadium where you can already get sushi, crepes, crab cakes and steak sandwiches, it's not like the Braves fan base is only getting the traditional anyway.