The Braves rewrote their lineup Friday, hoping it’d light a fire; it did just enough to win a 2-1 barnburner. On Saturday, the offense started rediscovering its stroke.
For the second consecutive night, the Braves topped the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. They won 6-4, ambushing Arizona pitchers with hard hits, and their short-handed bullpen held serve.
Catcher Brian McCann, who entered the game hitting .298 (17-for-57) with two homers and hits in 13 of his last 17, went deep. Johan Camargo, who’s played sparingly in a utility role, posted his first career pinch-hit homer.
Scattered around the homers were RBI-singles from Ender Inciarte, Josh Donaldson, Nick Markakis and Ozzie Albies. It was the offensive group effort the Braves haven’t had in the past week.
“I like it,” manager Brian Snitker said of the lineup. “We’ll stay with it for a while.”
The Braves had scored 14 runs in six games prior to Saturday. Much of that credit can go to Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ pitching, but it had reached a concerning enough point that Snitker was compelled to shake up the order.
Donaldson, who had just 18 at-bats with runners in scoring position while hitting second, already has three in the clean-up spot. His third-inning single off Merrill Kelly put the Braves ahead 2-0.
Ronald Acuna had two hits from the leadoff spot, as he’s already looked right back at home hitting first. Acuna’s 466-foot homer Friday was the game-winner. The Braves are 38-29 when their 21-year-old star leads off.
“He’s got a different look about him,” Snitker said of Acuna turning it around at the plate. “He’s getting really hitterish looking.”
McCann, signed last winter to be another steady clubhouse presence, has exceeded offensive expectations. He’s hitting .311 after a two-hit day that included a seventh-inning homer.
The Braves were confident in the McCann-Tyler Flowers catching duo, but even they probably didn’t expect it to be so productive offensively this early. McCann has provided everything the Braves hoped and more, adding another formidable bat to the lineup when he’s handling backstop duties.
“It’s been great,” Snitker said. “He’s a born leader. He brings instant creditability. He’s got rings. He’s been silver slugger, All-Star, he’s done it all. He’s one of the best catchers of his generation. The fire hasn’t left either. If anything, coming here has stoked it even more.”
On the pitching side of the equation, Kevin Gausman produced one of his better box scores in what’s been a lackluster start to the year. He frequently worked out of jams, allowing just a single run over six innings.
He was followed by Josh Tomlin, Jacob Webb and Jonny Venters. The Braves didn’t have Luke Jackson, Sean Newcomb or Dan Winkler available, so Tomlin handled the seventh and eighth and the Webb-Venters combo closed it out.
The win ensures at least a series split in Arizona. It also guarantees a .500 road trip despite the team getting swept in Los Angeles. The Braves are 5-4, with just Sunday’s finale remaining on their first of two 10-game road trips this season.
“Sometimes you just need a little tweak here or there,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “We all know we’re a great offense. What (Snitker) did was pretty smart on his part. We only scored two or three yesterday, but today we woke up a bit. So hopefully we can carry that into (Sunday).”
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