Second-year catcher has seven career home runs vs. division rivals
PHILADELPHIA -- Evan Gattis led off the top of the fourth inning with a homer Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park. It turned out to be the only run in the Braves' 1-0 win over the Phillies. He ended the evening with a career-high four hits.
In the series opener on Monday, the Atlanta catcher had the second multiple-homer game of his career. It's more than that, too.
The other time he homered twice in a game came in Philadelphia on Sept. 8, 2013, the last time the Braves visited. One of them was estimated to have traveled 486 feet, the longest home run of the entire season, according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker.
So let's recap. In his last three games at Citizens Bank Park, Gattis has hit five homers. As a rookie last season, he hit 21. Four came in 10 games against the Phillies. Or, to put it another way, he has seven homers in 46 lifetime at-bats against Philadelphia, or one for every 6.6 ABs. When Babe Ruth hit 60 homers in 1927, he averaged one per nine at bats.
And that is why Gattis has established himself as a legitimate Phillies killer.
"Small sample size, I guess," Gattis said with a shrug.
Maybe. But he also conceded that he enjoys hitting in this park.
"It's open. There's nothing back there. It's just wide open to the sky," Gattis said. "Maybe I see it better here. Maybe not. I really don't know."
Gattis' fourth homer of the year ended up deciding a classic pitchers' duel between Braves right-hander Julio Teheran and Phillies lefty Cliff Lee. It came after he fouled off a changeup and then a fastball, putting him in an 0-2 hole.
"You can't look for anything in that situation. I was just trying to put the ball in play hard somewhere. You know, I've got spots where they can put it. I saw he went front door, two-seam to Justin [Upton, who struck out in his first two at bats] earlier. Maybe that was in the back of my mind. But you just go out there and compete."
Said Lee: "I made a mistake. He had just fouled off the previous fastball that was in the same spot as the one he hit the home run on. He fouled it straight back, he was right on it and I tried to elevate a fastball. It wasn't a bad spot, but it wasn't the spot I was trying to go to.
"I'm going to give up hits 0-2 and I'm going to get outs 0-2. I just hope to get every hitter in that situation. That's going to happen."
While the homer he hit last September was the longest of Gattis' career, this was the shortest. It dropped just over the fence, just inside the left-field foul pole. He wasn't sure off the bat that it would clear the wall.
"I don't know if you could tell, but I was running really, really fast," Gattis said wryly. "I ran just in case. I was moving it. For me."
Lee was also unsure.
"Obviously, it ended up being a home run," Lee said. "I knew he got the barrel on it and he hit it pretty high. I thought it had a chance, and it had just enough to get out of here."
This is Gattis' first year as an everyday catcher, taking over after Gattis started 38 games behind the plate and 53 games in left field, at first base or at designated hitter.
"He's catching really good baseball," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "I'm very pleased with what he's doing. We're asking a lot of him. We're asking him to get here early every day and go through the game plan, look at the [previous] game with [bullpen coach Eddie Perez and pitching coach Roger McDowell]. And then you ask him to hit fifth in the lineup and produce, and he's doing a terrific job."
Said Gattis: "I did that for the first month and a half last year [when McCann was injured], so it's not all that new. Maybe it's better for a routine, stuff like that. My job doesn't change. It's less mentally stressful than playing left field. That's it."
Gattis has now hit safely in eight of his last nine games, going 14-for-33 (.424) in that stretch to raise his overall average to .378.
Managers often give catchers a day game off after a night game and Gonzalez said he plans to do that with Gattis on Thursday, despite his big numbers against the Phillies. But that doesn't mean the Phils can relax.
"He'll be lingering all day long on the bench," Gonzalez said with a smile. "I can use him any time I want. [Hall of Fame manager] Bobby Cox taught me that."