A couple of weeks ago, the Braves were flying to Seattle from San Diego after they were swept by the deep-under .500 Padres and were in the midst of a 6-game losing streak that eventually ended at 8. Now, the Braves will be flying much higher on their way to Pittsburgh after sweeping the way-over .500 Oakland Athletics.
During that Padres series, Mike Minor started the Friday game that weekend and got absolutely shelled, giving up 2 homers and 5 runs total over a pretty bad 5 innings. Tonight, Minor only gave up 2 runs through 7 innings and struck out 7, and this start was an extremely encouraging sign considering the clunkers he's had as of late.
The first run Minor gave up tonight was a home run in the top of the 2nd. Nate Freiman hit one into center to give the A's the early lead. This would not be the last we would hear from Freiman for the night.
With that being said, that would be the last time that the A's would lead for the game, as the Braves hit right back in the very next frame. After Justin Upton reached on a single, Chris Johnson proceeded to line out with a sharp shot that went straight to Josh Donaldson. However, Donaldson hit Justin with the throw back to first in an effort to double up the younger Upton brother. After the deflection, the ball rolled into the Braves dugout and Upton was awarded 3rd base. So despite making a great catch on a screaming line drive (something that would become sort of a theme for the night for Braves hitters and A's defenders), the A's ended up in a worse position. Evan Gattis wasted no time making the A's pay for their mistake, as he hit the very first pitch that Jon Lester threw at him into right field to tie the game up at 1.
2 innings later, the Braves claimed the lead, which they'd end up keeping for the rest of the game. After Phil Gosselin got on base with a single, Freddie Freeman came up and struck out swinging. That brought up Justin Upton, who did not strike out swinging. In fact, he did the complete opposite, as you can see below:
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With the Braves now up 3-1, both teams traded scoreless frames until the 7th inning, which would end up being Mike Minor's last inning. Things started off well enough for Minor in that inning as he struck out Brandon Moss to kick things off. Unfortunately, Nate Freiman decided that he wasn't done, and when Mike Minor threw one of the most enticing 83-mph sliders that you will ever see, Freiman made no mistake and crushed it a few rows deep into the left field bleachers for a solo home run. This was Freiman's first career multi-homer game, and the two homers he hit tonight were his 3rd and 4th home runs of the season. That's right, he came into this series with just 1 homer since coming up on June 29th, and it's safe to say that he's earned his place on the All-Random Guy Who Kills The Braves Team.
Minor made it through the rest of the 7th inning unscathed. The same couldn't be said for Jon Lester, who got dinged by the very first batter he faced in the bottom of the 2nd. The guy who did the damage? Chris Johnson (!!!).
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Jon Lester went into this game with a HR/FB% of 5.7%, which was good for 7th place in all of baseball. Chris Johnson went into this game with a paltry ISO of .104. All of the numbers say that Chris Johnson should not be hitting a dinger at the expense of Jon Lester, but it happened. This particular moment was proof positive that anything is possible and that you can be anything you want to be. If you want to be a table, go ahead and be a table. If you want to get in a spaceship and go colonize Pluto, then you have my full support now because there are obviously no more rules and anything goes in this new and crazy society where Chris Johnson is hitting home runs off of Jon Lester.
Anarchy aside, that gave the Braves a 4-2 lead, which ended up being pretty useful for Atlanta since the bullpen ended up coughing up another run in the 8th inning. Sam Fuld hit a double off of Anthony Varvaro, but made it to 3rd because B.J. Upton had a bit of an adventure fielding the ball on the bounce. Coco Crisp brought home Fuld with a sac fly to make it 4-3. After getting Stephen Vogt to fly out for the 2nd out of the inning, Varvaro was pulled in favor of James Russell, so that the lefty could face right handed hitter Josh Donaldson. Russell somehow managed to limit Donaldson to a walk, and then induced a grounder to Derek Norris to escape the inning with the lead.
Even though the bottom of the 8th inning was a little bit shaky, the bottom of the 9th was anything but, as Craig Kimbrel entered the game on an apparent mission to break the radar gun. Kimbrel hit 100-mph on the gun multiple times during his outing tonight and when that is happening, it's basically curtains for the opposition. Alberto Callaspo miraculously made contact with a 100-mph heater from Kimbrel, and his meek grounder was collected by Andrelton Simmons and tossed to 1st to end the game and complete the extremely unlikely sweep for the Braves.
Even with the A's now in 2nd place (by 1 percentage point) thanks to this tailspin that has coincided with a surge by the Angels, there was no way that anybody could see the Braves taking all 3 games in this series. Yet, it happened. The Braves went into this series reeling, but they've come out of it reinvigorated, and hopefully this version of the team stays around for a while.