Ervin Santana rediscovered a little of his “Magic” on Saturday, the nickname he introduced to his teammates early this spring that fit well with the dominant pitching he brought to an injury-riddled Braves rotation.
Santana snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday by limiting the Phillies to two runs in 6 2/3 innings in a 10-3 win in the first game of the split-doubleheader.
Batterymate Gerald Laird had just said before the game Santana’s been battling but the Braves needed to score him some runs. That’s exactly what they went out and did.
Tommy La Stella hit a bases-clearing triple to snap an 0-for-23 slump with his first major league triple during a five-run eighth inning. The Braves scored 10 runs – all without the benefit of a home run - to bring Santana his first win since May 31 and pull back into a first-place tie with the Washington Nationals in the NL East.
The Braves had won four of their past five games, heading into Saturday’s night cap. The Nationals played the Cubs Saturday night as well.
The 10 runs matched the Braves biggest offensive output since their 13-10 win June 10 in the light air of Colorado.
The Braves got their offense going with a little help from Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. His errors on back-to-back plays in the fourth helped the Braves score their first two runs off Roberto Hernandez. Justin Upton didn’t need much help to get their next two off him. Upton smoked a ball off the Gulf sign in left center field for a ringing – literally – double, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead.
Chris Johnson sneaked a single to left with the bases loaded to start the five-run outbreak in the eighth that helped the Braves rest the back end off their bullpen for the second game.
Santana gave up two hard hit balls in the first two innings for extra-base hits by Tony Gwynn Jr. and Koyie Hill. Both came in to score on softly hit balls – a bloop single to left by Ryan Howard in the first and a grounder past second in the second inning by the pitcher Roberto Hernandez.
Hernandez single was only the second major league hit in 43 major league at-bats for the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, who spent the first eight years of his career in the American League with the Indians and Rays.
That ball might sharpened Santana’s focus, though, because he retired the next nine batters he faced. He coaxed 10 groundouts and two flyouts to keep his pitch count low and was still at only 78 pitches through six. His day was over after a leadoff walk, and a two-out double in the seventh, but Luis Avilan got a groundout to end the inning.