The Braves won again Saturday night, this time without prompting players to jump into the waterfall beyond center field or to spray champagne in the clubhouse.
One night after clinching -- and aggressively celebrating -- the National League East championship, the Braves trotted out a lineup with just three regulars in it and nevertheless dominated the San Francisco Giants in an 8-1 victory before a sellout crowd at SunTrust Park.
Based on this game, at least, it appears the Braves’ bench may be ready for the postseason despite recent injuries to two of its key components, Charlie Culberson (out for the season) and Johan Camargo (doubtful for the Division Series).
With the Braves resting most of their regulars, catcher Francisco Cervelli, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria and outfielders Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton got starts Saturday and combined for seven RBIs. Cervelli and Duvall hit two-run homers. Hechavarria had two hits, including a two-run double, and reached base three times. Hamilton had an RBI double.
“It felt good because everybody contributed a little bit,” Hechavarria said through an interpreter. “Everybody kind of chipped in, and that’s always important.”
The bench’s productivity backed a bounce-back outing by starting pitcher Max Fried, who had allowed 10 earned runs across 7-1/3 innings over his previous two starts. This time, he threw 5-1/3 shutout innings against the Giants, who rank next-to-last in the NL in runs scored. He allowed five hits, all of them singles, and struck out two in winning his 17th game of the season, the most wins by a Braves pitcher since Tim Hudson’s 17 in 2010.
“I feel great, physically, mentally,” Fried said afterward. “I definitely wanted to go out there and have a good start, even after the craziness of (Friday) night.”
His outing was cut short after 65 pitches (51 strikes) as part of the Braves’ strategy to preserve their young arms as much as possible for the postseason.
Fried was fine with the early exit because “at the end of the day, we just want to be ready for the playoffs, whatever that entails,” he said.
The win boosted the Braves’ record to 96-60, keeping them within striking range of their first 100-win season since 2003. They’d have to go 4-2 over their final six regular-season games to get there.
No progress was made Saturday, however, on the 40-40 or 40-40-40 pursuits.
Ronald Acuna remained three stolen bases short of becoming the fifth player in MLB history to assemble a 40-homer, 40-steal season. He reached base once via a walk and scored a run, but struck out in his other three plate appearances.
Similarly, the Braves’ bid to become just the fourth team in MLB history with three 40-homer hitters in the same season remained stalled as Freddie Freeman (38 homers) didn’t play and Josh Donaldson (37 homers) went 0-for-3.
The power was provided in this game by Duvall and Cervelli. Duvall’s home run to left-center in the seventh inning, off a 96-mph fastball, traveled 427 feet.
“I thought Adam was a click away from having a three-homer game,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, referring to two other long fly balls Duvall hit.
Cervelli, signed in August after being released by Pittsburgh, hit his first homer as a Brave. And Hechavarria, signed in August after being released by the New York Mets, collected his 11th and 12th RBIs in 20 games with Atlanta.
The Braves, who are 50-30 at SunTrust Park this season, play their final regular-season home game of the year Sunday afternoon. They’ll be back home Oct. 3, though, for the start of an NL Division Series.
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