Ervin Santana was more hittable than he has been for most of 2014 on Wednesday afternoon. Santana allowed four runs in six innings and the only way the Braves would be able to win was if the bullpen and offense picked up Santana. In a completely unexpected turn of events thats exactly what happened as the Braves scored seven runs and the bullpen threw three shutout innings in a 7-4 Atlanta victory.
The Braves started a lineup for this game that can be most generously described as not-ideal. With Justin Upton out with an injury and Evan Gattis resting the Braves started two players who have been above league average hitters in 2014. Ryan Doumit batted cleanup in spite of being the Braves worst offensive player this season. Christian Bethancourt was in the lineup despite being a below average hitter in the minors this season and having offensive skills generally considered to be not good enough to hit major league pitching yet. In spite of these things the Braves had one of their best hitting games in a while with many of the maligned hitters coming through with the big knocks.
New Braves killer Ben Revere got things started for Philadelphia by leading the game off with a double. Revere would come home to score to put the Braves in a 1-0 deficit and considering the Braves had been shut out in three of their past four games this felt like a huge hill to climb. In a bizarre turn of events the Braves backups got things going in a positive direction in the second inning. Ryan Doumit led off the inning by reaching on an error. Tommy La Stella bunted Doumit to second which didn't seem ideal considering La Stella has had the third best season of Wednesday's starters at the plate. Chris Johnson got out as he tends to do but then Christian Bethancourt came through with the weakest of singles to tie the game at 1-1. What followed was a miracle that felt akin to blood from a stone as BJ Upton crushed a monster two run homer to centerfield to put Atlanta in front 3-1.
Grady Sizemore delivered a gut punch to the Braves with a two run homer in the third as Turner Field was swallowed in a time warp that brought everyone back to 2008 when Grady Sizemore and BJ Upton were elite players. The Sizemore homer tied the game at 3-3 and it was hard as a Braves fan not to be swallowed up by pessismism again. However, the Bethancourt/Upton combo continued to punish the Phillies in the bottom of the 4th when the duo got things started with a single and a walk. Santana managed to sacrifice both players over with a bunt which paid off as Bethancourt came home to score on a Jason Heyward groundout to retake the lead 4-3.
The offensive back and forth continued in the top of the fifth inning as the Phillies loaded the bases on Santana with one out. In need of a double play to escape the inning Santana allowed a sacrifice fly to left field which brought home Wil Nieves and tied the game 4-4. Santana escaped the inning without further incident by inducing a Ryan Howard flyout but every run felt costly as once again the pressure shifted to the Braves beleaguered offense.
The Braves came through though as they took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth. Freeman led off the inning with a double though the play required a replay review for Freeman to be correctly ruled safe. Doumit struck out and La Stella grounded out and the Braves seemed unlikely to cash in the opportunity. Then in yet another example of manna raining from heaven Chris Johnson drew a walk in a key spot to bring up Bethancourt. The defense only catcher again came up with a big hit to put the Braves back in front 5-4. Since we were already well into the Twilight Zone BJ Upton walked to reach base for the third time in the game though he would be left stranded. Still the Braves had the lead and this time Santana and the bullpen would do their part and hold it.
The Braves would score two more runs in the game though they wouldn't prove necessary for securing the victory. The Braves scored seven runs in a game in which BJ Upton reached base three times, Bethancourt three times, Chris Johnson walked twice for the first time in a game in over a season, Ryan Doumit had a single and scored twice. The Braves picked up an essential victory with the help of a bunch of guys who would all fall somewhere between disappointing and atrocious in 2014. It is unlikely this offensive outburst has any longterm affect on the team but picking up a win in a game in which the team started two above average offensive players could prove massive to the team's playoff chances.