After using a four-run rally in the ninth inning to force extra innings in a loss to the Angels Saturday night, staring up at them from three runs down after five innings didn’t seem so daunting for the Braves on Sunday.
The Braves simply strung together five straight hits in the sixth inning, punctuated by a bases-loaded two-run double by Tommy La Stella. The 16th game of the young second baseman’s major league career was pretty sweet, as he introduced himself to an ESPN audience with his first game-winning hit in a 7-3 win.
Jason Heyward helped supply some breathing room with a majestic solo home run in the seventh, which only served to complete his day. Heyward used a pair of highlight catches in right field to keep Mike Trout in check and then helped nab Josh Hamilton at second base with a laser of a throw from right field.
La Stella has now hit safely in 13 of his 16 major league games, and Sunday night was his ninth of the multi-hit variety. He went 3-for-3 with a walk for the first three-hit game of his career. One of those will stand out in his mind though, the line drive to right center off a Kevin Jepsen 95 mph fastball with the bases loaded, good for the second double of his career.
The hit plated two runs before Chris Johnson was thrown out at home plate trying to score, but the Braves came back with insurance runs in the seventh and eighth. Anthony Varvaro and Jordan Walden retired nine in a row before David Carpenter ran into a snag in the ninth. He gave up a one-out hit and hit Albert Pujols with a pitch, forcing manager Fredi Gonzalez to call on Craig Kimbrel with a 7-3 lead.
Kimbrel struck out Josh Hamilton and Howie Kendrick for his 20th save.
B.J. Upton started the sixth inning rally with a one-out walk. Freddie Freeman fueled it with his second hit of the game, good for his first multi-hit game in a week. Evan Gattis then worked a single to right to extend his National League-leading hitting streak to 15 games and drive in the Braves’ first run. Justin Upton drove in another with an infield hit off David Freese’s glove at third base.
Mike Minor was peppered with 11 hits through the first five innings and left trailing 3-0 after throwing 103 pitches. The 11 hits matched his career high, which Minor has done three times already this season, including his previous start in Colorado.
It wasn’t the volume of hits that mattered though, it was the depth. Trout and Erick Aybar both took him deep, before Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Howie Kendrick tacked on another run with three straight singles in the third. Aybar connected first on a 2-0 fastball to lead off the second inning. Then Trout got in on the act to lead off the third sending a 1-1 slider into the left field seats.
Heyward was the Braves best defense against Trout, though. He robbed Trout in the fourth inning on a diving catch in shallow right and then again in the sixth with a leaping catch at the right field wall. He also made a strong throw from right field which Andrelton Simmons cut off and used to cut down Hamilton at second base to help limit the damage in the third inning.
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