Whatever it is that’s ailed the Braves offense lately, it hasn’t affected Evan Gattis. And for that, the Braves were thankful again Wednesday.
Two days after Gattis hit a 10th-inning walk-off homer to beat the Marlins in the series opener, he delivered again. This time the big catcher came off the bench to hit a two-out, two-run pinch double in the eighth inning, lifting the Braves to a 3-1 win in the series finale Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field.
“He doesn’t get fazed by anything,” Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said of Gattis. “He’s locked in. No words. He doesn’t think, he just goes up there and does what he does.”
Aaron Harang pitched brilliantly again, allowing one run, six hits and one walk with a season-high 11 strikeouts in six innings, and Craig Kimbrel may have eased some concerns about his recently sore shoulder by pitching a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts for his sixth save.
According to Baseball Reference, Harang is the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1997 to begin a season with five consecutive appearances of six or more innings and one or fewer runs allowed. That included two starts in which the 35-year-old journeyman pitched no-hitters through six and seven innings.
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“He’s pitched really, really well,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves took the series 2-1, their sixth series win in seven this season. “He gives us a good opportunity to win a ballgame every time he’s gone out there.”
Gattis is 12-for-33 (.364) with two doubles, four homers and nine RBIs in his past nine games. In his career as a pinch-hitter, the second year big-leaguer is an astounding 7-for-13 with two doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs.
Chris Johnson drew a one-out walk and Dan Uggla bounced a two-out single up the middle against left-hander to set the table for Gattis. The Marlins brought in A.J. Ramos to face him, and Gattis pulled a 1-1 pitch from the right-hander — a 91-mph fastball — for a line-drive double to the left-field corner for the lead, thrilling a crowd of 21,508.
“I saw three pitches and got one I could handle,” Gattis said. “I was just trying to be loose, same thing with the home run the other day.”
Braves starters have a majors-leading 1.50 ERA and have allowed two earned runs or fewer in 20 of 21 games this season, including one or no earned runs allowed in 10 of the past 11 games. Harang didn’t get a decision, but did what he’s done every time out — gave the Braves a real good chance to win.
Harang hasn’t needed much help from the bullpen, but he got some Wednesday after the first two batters in the seventh reached on a walk and a single. Harang got a standing ovation as he came the field and was replaced by Jordan Walden, who struck out the next three – Adeiny Hechavarria and pinch hitters Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Greg Dobbs – to keep the score tied.
Walden has 11 strikeouts in 6-1/3 scoreless innings over his past seven appearances.
Harang’s ERA dipped to a majors-leading 0.57 after he got the first two outs in the sixth inning before Giancarlo Stanton got jammed on a pitch and muscled an RBI bloop double to left-center field, beyond the reach of Braves infielders and enough to tie the score 1-1.
The Marlins had only two hits – both ground-ball singles – before a three-hit sixth, when they got a leadoff bunt single by Jeff Mathis and a two-out Marcell Ozuna single through the left side. That set up what was surely one of the weakest run-scoring extra-base hits of Stanton’s career, but enough to give him his majors-leading 27th RBI.
Before the consecutive hits by Ozuna and Stanton, opposing hitters were 3-for-36 (.083) against Harang with runners on base this season, with three walks and 15 strikeouts. That included 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position before Stanton’s double.
This is a condensed version of the game story. Full version can be found at MyAJC.com, or by pasting this link in your browser: http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/baseball/marlins-el-oso-blancod-again-gattis-2-run-double-g/nfgS5/?icmp=ajc_internallink_invitationbox_apr2013_ajcstub1