Three Cuts: Johnson ties Aaron mark; Braves win 8th straight

BY foxsports • August 2, 2013

Here are three things we learned from the Braves' 6-4 win over the Phillies — the club's eighth straight victory.

On Friday, Johnson tallied a solo homer and double to become the first Atlanta player in franchise history to rack up multiple hits in eight consecutive outings — perfectly synchronized with the Braves' winning streak.

(Hall of Famer Hank Aaron accomplished the same feat with the Milwaukee Braves.)

Over the last eight games, Johnson has batted at a .642 clip; and during this absurd run of excellence, he has created major separation between his seasonal average (.347) and every other contender for the National League batting crown — namely Yadier Molina (.330), Michael Cuddyer (.329), Allen Craig (.318), Jean Segura (.317) and Joey Votto (.317).

And yet, very few people outside of metro Atlanta know about Johnson's low-key, but highly effective pursuit of a batting title — and not just amongst those who regularly hit from the 8-hole.

Seriously, if you went around to 15 major league ballparks on Saturday and allotted fans five guesses to "Name the current NL batting leader" ... what percentage would include Johnson in the guesswork?

Maybe 5, 10 percent? He's an under-the-radar star, if such a thing exists.

Which brings us to this: Do you find it a little odd that Johnson hasn't batted in his customary 8-spot since July 24, the slot he's inhabited 30 times (a season high)?

It's almost like one of the powers-that-be at Major League Baseball tapped Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez or GM Frank Wren and said, Hey, we can't have a batting champion hitting in the 8-hole. Bump him up!

For what it's worth, only two primary third basemen have captured NL batting titles since 1984 ... and both were Braves — Terry Pendleton (1991) and Chipper Jones (2008).

Most pitchers don't surrender three homers on the road and live to tell about it.

But Medlen (four runs allowed, eight strikeouts over six innings) was lucky or savvy enough to yield non-impactful dingers to Darin Ruf, Chase Utley and Delmon Young — with little collateral damage resulting from the solo blasts.

On the whole, Medlen (one walk, six hits surrendered) fared well in scattering hits and escaping jams.

After the Ruf/Young homers in the second inning, the other batters were retired, virtually incident-free. And after Utley went deep in the 6th, the Phillies would push only one more run across (Ruf) ... before enduring three straight 1-2-3 innings to seal their 59th loss of the season.

By the way, of the final nine Phillies retired by the Braves relievers (David Carpenter, Jordan Walden, Craig Kimbrel), seven went down in flames. For the evening, Atlanta pitchers notched 15 strikeouts.  

The incomparable Kimbrel, who secured his 32nd save of the year, has the following numbers since May 9:

Covering 28 appearances and 28 innings, Kimbrel has absurdly tallied a 0.64 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 43/12 K-BB ratio.

Within that span, he has also converted on 21 straight save opportunities.

In Atlanta's four-game sweep of Colorado (Monday-Thursday), the club produced 40 total runs ... and four big innings of five, six, six and seven runs against inferior pitching.

On Friday, with the Braves (65-45) trailing 2-1 and Phillies rookie Ethan Martin (career ERA in the minors: 4.64), the floodgates opened with a simple barrage of a Jason Heyward double, Justin Upton single, Brian McCann three-run homer ... and then Chris Johnson's solo shot on the very next pitch.

In a flash, a one-run advantage had quickly disintegrated into a four-run deficit for Martin and the forlorn Phillies (50-59 — 14 1/2 games behind the Braves).

Heyward, McCann and, of course, Johnson collected multiple hits on the night.

And the club, on the whole, recorded double-digit hits for the sixth consecutive outing.

Is that a franchise record? Perhaps we should keep the number for Stats, Inc. on speed dial.