Gausman gives Braves strong start in win

With new lineup, Atlanta bats spark late rally vs. D-backs

May 12th, 2019

PHOENIX -- Over his previous four starts, couldn’t get deep into games and struggled, while also getting ejected once and appealing a five-game suspension in that span. On Saturday, the Braves right-hander was back on regular schedule and delivered his best outing in nearly a month.

Gausman tossed six innings of one-run ball, navigating through several tough jams, as the Braves had their best offensive showing in a week and held on for a 6-4 win over the D-backs at Chase Field.

After getting ejected for throwing at Marlins pitcher Jose Urena during the second inning on May 3, Gausman returned three days later and struggled in a loss to the Dodgers. Gausman made his scheduled start Saturday against the D-backs while his suspension appeal is being reviewed, and he allowed five hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

Not only had Gausman been struggling, but so had the Braves’ lineup and bullpen earlier on this road trip. All three played key roles in their win on Saturday.

Here are three numbers that illustrate just how Atlanta notched its second straight victory:

Seven -- the number of baserunners Gausman stranded from the third through sixth innings

There were many opportunities for the D-backs to erase the Braves’ two-run lead against Gausman, and the right-hander shut them down.

In the third, a Dansby Swanson error gave Arizona runners on the corners with one out, then Gausman induced two flyouts.

In the fourth, the D-backs loaded the bases with no outs, but Gausman struck out Blake Swihart, got Nick Ahmed to fly out and induced an Alex Avila groundout.

In the sixth, a David Peralta leadoff double helped the D-backs load the bases with one out, and although Gausman gave up a one-out sacrifice fly to Ahmed -- his only run allowed -- he struck out Avila to keep it 2-1.

“Usually there’s one or two, sometimes three, times in a game that determine how your start is,” said Gausman, who completed six innings for the first time since his last start against Arizona, on April 17. “I just tried to bear down and throw my best pitches in those situations. I think I threw enough strikes to where they were aggressive enough that I could throw my offspeed and not have to worry about throwing it for a strike.

“When you get in those situations, what you’ve done earlier in the game can set you up nice, even in some of those situations. You’ve just got to pitch around it, and hopefully you can get a ground-ball double play or get three quick outs.”

Six -- the number of runs scored by the Braves, their most since a 9-2 win over the Marlins last Saturday

Manager Brian Snitker tweaked his lineup on Friday, and although the Braves won, they only scored two runs, their sixth straight game with four or fewer runs.

The only differences in Saturday’s lineup were Brian McCann and Gausman plugged in at catcher and pitcher, respectively. And the bats started to heat up.

McCann and Johan Camargo each homered and six different players drove in runs as the Braves tallied 13 hits, their most since a 17-hit win vs. the Indians on April 21.

“We all know we have a great offense, just sometimes it can get into a lull after a few days,” said Freddie Freeman, who went 2-for-5 with a triple. “What [Snitker] did was pretty smart on his part.”

Ronald Acuna Jr., who hit the game-winning home run in his first game at leadoff this season on Friday, collected a pair of hits. Dansby Swanson, who moved to the No. 2 hole, doubled and scored a run, while Josh Donaldson, now batting cleanup, had an RBI single and a walk.

“I like it, we’ll stay with it for a while,” Snitker said.

One -- the number of batters Jonny Venters retired for his first save of the season

Talk about facing a tough situation in your first MLB game since April 14.

After Jacob Webb issued a two-out walk to Eduardo Escobar in the ninth, Snitker turned to Venters, who was activated from the IL on Friday after missing nearly four weeks with a right calf strain, to face Peralta, who hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of the Braves’ loss on Thursday.

Snitker had no reservations about using Venters with the tying run at the plate, and the left-hander got Peralta to ground out to first.

“He’s been through this before, he’s been in the high-leverage innings his whole life,” Snitker said. “He got saves last year for us. With the sinker, you feel pretty good he’s going to keep it on the ground.”

The Braves plan to continue to mix and match the relievers they use in the ninth inning, and that strategy worked on Saturday.