Braves refuse to 'mail it in' amid hitting woes
PHILADELPHIA -- Like the four straight losses that preceded Saturday night's 5-2 win over the Phillies did not guarantee impending doom, one victory does not completely erase the concerns the Braves have created over the past 10 days.
But the three-run, two-out rally produced during Saturday's seventh inning at least indicated the Braves are capable of proving resilient. Before creating this rally, they had extended their scoreless-innings streak to 20 and tallied hits in just two of the first 15 innings of this three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
"I don't see this as a team that's going to get down on themselves or quit," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "We have too many guys fighting to get in there every day or fighting to prove something. We've got a lot of guys that aren't going to give up."
The past few weeks have certainly been mentally trying for Johnson, a former regular who has been in the starting lineup for just nine of this season's first 17 games. But when given a chance to extend his success against left-handed pitchers, he delivered a pinch-hit, game-tying single off Jake Diekman, who moments later surrendered Eric Young Jr.'s go-ahead RBI double.
Johnson, who is now 5-for-12 against left-handed pitchers, and Young would not have had a chance to make their contributions without the patience shown by Jonny Gomes, who sparked the two-out rally by drawing a walk off Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan. Buchanan had surrendered just one hit before Andrelton Simmons began the seventh inning with a home run.
"We were held to no runs through nine innings [Friday] night and the first six innings of this one," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You could have just put your head down and mailed it in. Our guys didn't mail it in."
As Gomes soaked in Atlanta's first victory since Sunday, he downplayed the struggles of the four-game losing streak, during which the Braves committed seven errors and totaled just six runs.
"I don't think we've really had our doors blown off," Gomes said. "All due respect to the other teams, but we've been kind of beating ourselves. A loss is a loss. You've got to tip your cap to the other team. But if we get back to fundamentals and get back to situational hitting, we'll be all right. We were able to turn the page and do that tonight."
Responding to the recent offensive struggles and lack of production he has received from the top of his lineup, Gonzalez moved Nick Markakis to the leadoff spot on Saturday and revealed that his former leadoff hitters Young and Cameron Maybin would now likely hit toward the bottom of the order.
Gonzalez has utilized a different lineup through each of this season's first 17 games. A.J. Pierzynski, who ran his hitting streak to nine games with a RBI single during Saturday's eighth inning, has served as the starting catcher for seven of the past 10 games.
With the 38-year-old Pierzynski set to rest on Sunday, Christian Bethancourt will be behind the plate for the series finale against the Phillies. But Gonzalez indicated the lineups he utilizes over the next few days will look much like the one he employed on Saturday.