The Braves already knew that Brandon Beachy could throw strikes against the Philadelphia Phillies, on the road, after a spur of the moment call-up for his major league debut. So, what’s a month off while on the disabled list?
Beachy returned to the mound Wednesday from an oblique injury and struck out a career-high 11 in a 5-1 win over Toronto.
Tim Hudson, Mike Minor and Beachy dominated a series in which the Blue Jays scored only two runs in three games.
The Braves have won four in a row to stay within four games of the Phillies, pending Wednesday night’s game against the Cardinals.
What was supposed to be Beachy’s second minor league rehabilitation game would have been a waste. Rather than pitch for Triple-A Gwinnett, Beachy replaced the injured Tommy Hanson and made the most of his 96 pitches over six innings.
“Perfect,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “That’s right where we wanted him.”
It’s not usually economical to strike out so many batters, but Beachy stayed within his 100-pitch limit by working ahead of hitters and finishing them off quickly. Ten of his strikeouts came swinging.
“He’s got swing-and-miss ability, especially against someone that hasn’t seen him before,” Chipper Jones said. “I really, really like this kid to continue to be successful for years to come.”
Jones has been raving about Beachy since spring training when he beat out Minor for the Braves’ fifth starter spot. Beachy showed no fear in the strike zone, something Minor struggled with, as did Jo-Jo Reyes, the former Brave who faced Beachy on Wednesday.
Jones said it’s not late movement that baffled Blue Jays hitters, but Beachy hitting his spots.
“He pitches well above the belt,” Jones said. “He’s got one of those releases that’s hard to pick up. That combined with a slow looping hook and a hard downward slider and a developing change-up — you’ve got all the makings of a guy that I think can go out and win you 15-plus.”
Beachy won for only the second time this season and his career, in large part because of a lack of run support. On Wednesday, he got a pair of two-run homers from Dan Uggla and Brian McCann. Brooks Conrad added a pinch-hit homer in the seventh.
Beachy’s only run allowed was a solo homer to Jose Bautista — the majors’ leader with 22. He, Minor and Hudson combined to allow only two runs in 21 innings, starting with Hudson’s 2-0 win Monday.
“I made a comment to Mike that night Huddy had that performance,” Beachy said. “I said ‘We can’t give too much away.’ We definitely tried to replicate what he set the tone as.”
Beachy had his 11 strikeouts before Reyes had his second. Uggla got his fourth extra-base hit in six at-bats off Reyes for a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Then McCann continued his torrid power streak to put the Braves up 4-1 in the third.
McCann has homered in back-to-back games, four of his past five and seven of 14.
“I’m swinging at balls in the zone,” said McCann, who leads all major league catchers with 13 home runs. “I’m working counts. When you do those things and you’re seeing the ball well, you’re going to be successful.”
Conrad’s home run required a video replay to confirm. In live action, he actually was thrown out at third base on a ball he thought — rightly so — was gone over the right-field fence.
“I got thrown out at third base on a home run. How about that one?” said Conrad, who said he heard it hit a metal plate over the fence and knew it was a homer. “You hear it all the time in batting practice. ... I’m into my trot and [coach Brian Snitker] is waving me at third base. I look back and I was dead out at third base. But it all worked out.”
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