The Braves wrapped a magical series against the Chicago Cubs with a sweep at Turner Field. The series saw a stunning comeback win for the Braves due to the hitting of the Upton brothers. In game 2, BJ Upton homered in the 9th inning to tie the game and brother Justin came through with a walk-off homer. That wasn’t the only magic against Chicago, however. Mike Minor pitched a gem in his first outing of the season and Tim Hudson stepped up to duel Jeff Samardzija in his second outing of the young season.
Line scores for the 3-game set against Chicago:
W: Minor (1-0) L: Feldman (0-1) SV: Kimbrel (2)
W: O’Flaherty (1-0) L: Marmol (0-1)
W: Hudson (1-0) L: Samardzija (1-1)
The Elias Sports Bureau says that never in the history of Major League Baseball have brothers combined for a homer to tie the game and a walk-off homer to win it in the same inning. Never until now. BJ and Justin Upton reminded all of baseball why it was so important for them to sign with the same time and why the Braves are lucky to have their services when they won game 2 against the Cubs for the Braves. Justin Upton now leads the team with 5 home runs in his 6 games with the club. Not only did that magic win the game for the Braves, it knocked Cubs’ closer Carlos Marmol out of the closer’s role once again. Marmol has been anything but consistent for Chicago in the last several years and the display put on by the Upton brothers forced Chicago’s hand. Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa will be the Cubs closer for the immediate future.
On the injury front, Brian McCann and Paul Janish headed to Florida to continue their rehabilitation from shoulder surgeries. With the team, Andrelton Simmons will return from the bench tonight after spraining his left thumb sliding head first last week. You’ll remember, Andrelton broke his pinky last season doing a similar head first slide. Simmons’ injury gave BJ Upton the opportunity to be Atlanta’s leadoff hitter, a move that appears to have shot BJ out of the early season slump he was in. Simmons’ injury also made way for utility man Ramiro Pena who had a great game yesterday with 2 hits and 2 RBIs. Freddie Freeman was placed on the 15-day DL, without being consulted about it, after struggling at the plate following an oblique injury during workouts the day before the opening of the season. His struggles were noticeable at the plate in the latter portion of the 5 games he played with the club before Frank Wren decided to place him on the DL. Freeman was batting .412 with a double, homer and 7 RBIs in those 5 games. In Freeman’s place, Chris Johnson takes over at first, something he proved capable of doing during Spring Training. This brings both the bat of Johnson and Juan Francisco into the lineup until Freeman’s return.
BRAVES HEAD TO MIAMI FOR FIRST AWAY SERIES OF 2013…
Monday: Maholm (1-0, 0.00) vs. Kevin Slowey (0-1, 1.69)
Tuesday: Medlen (0-1, 3.60) vs. LeBlanc (0-1, 3.60)
Wednesday: Minor (1-0, 1.23) vs. Sanabia (1-0, 0.00)
Paul Maholm will toe the rubber tonight, hoping to continue with the success he had in both Spring Training and his first start of the season. Paul could be the spoiler for the Marlins in their home opener. Maholm did not give up a home run in either Spring Training or his first start and he has yet to allow a run in the 2013 season. Kris Medlen hopes to right the ship and return to the pitching that made him the talk of baseball last season. Medlen was out of sorts in his first start of the season, allowing 6 hits, 2 runs and an un-Medlen-like 4 walks. Medlen’s matchup against LeBlanc and the sad state of the Marlins gives him the perfect opportunity to get a win under his belt. Minor has shown that his confidence from the end of last season as well as this Spring Training has carried over into the season. This year could be Mike Minor’s coming out party if he can show the league that what he did at the end of last season is his norm. With the struggle of Medlen in his first start, the Braves would really like to have Minor continue to be solid.
While there had been questions about the bullpen with the injury to Jonny Venters and losing Kris Medlen to the rotation, so far this season the relievers have been strong. Neither Avilan, Kimbrel, Varvaro nor Gearrin have allowed a run in their combined 12 innings pitched and together they’ve given up a mere 6 hits.
Moving ahead, the Braves know that power will slump and home runs cannot win every game for them. To scratch runs out, they will need to keep BJ Upton moving forward with quality at-bats, they’ll need Jason Heyward to produce more than he has in the first week and a healthy Simmons will be essential to small ball. The Braves have a great deal of speed on their roster between Upton, Heyward and Simmons. It’s time we see some of that speed on display and preferably the kind that steals bags without sliding head first into potential injuries.
The Marlins welcome the Braves for their home opener at Marlins Park tonight at 7:10 p.m. (EST).