ATLANTA -- Some small ball helped the Atlanta Braves take the first two games of the weekend series, and it got them off on the right foot Sunday afternoon in a two-run second inning against the Cubs.
But Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward offered a reminder of what power means to the Braves lineup. Gattis sent a first-pitch fastball into the left field seats for a one-run lead in the fourth and Heyward widened it with a two-run shot in the seventh.
The Braves used their first multi-homer game since May 1 to complete a weekend sweep of the Cubs with a 5-2 win. Aaron Harang settled down after a two-run fourth to win his first start since April 18. Two days after his 36th birthday, he continued to turn back the clock.
"I was able to get back out here and prove that I can still do this," said Harang, who at 4-3 is one win shy of his 2013 total with the Mariners and Mets. "I know there were probably a lot of people questioning it after last year. I've been pitching well, and the guys are playing well behind me and we're battling through games. So it's been a lot of fun. Just got to keep it rolling."
Ian Thomas used his new slider to strike out Junior Lake and strand two runners in the seventh. Alex Wood bridged the gap in the eighth inning for David Carpenter, who recorded his second save of the year on a day the Braves were trying not to pitch Craig Kimbrel three days in a row. Carpenter got an assist from B.J. Upton who came off the bench in the ninth to make a diving catch in center field that ended the game.
The Braves started this homestand by losing a three-game sweep to the Giants. They ended it with a three-game sweep to beat the Cubs and cure a few ills before traveling to San Francisco for another crack at the Giants at AT&T Park.
"To take all three is huge, especially when teams in our division are really close to us," Heyward said.
The Braves were back in first place in the NL East by 11/2 games on the Marlins, pending the outcome of their game against the Padres Sunday afternoon.
Heyward's two-run shot into the Braves bullpen was his third home run of the season and his first in more than a month. "I feel like it was longer than that," said Heyward, who last homered April 9 with leadoff shot against Zack Wheeler and the Mets.
This time Heyward got a hold of a 3-2 slider from left-hander James Russell, a similar pitch to one he popped up in the seventh inning against Russell on Saturday night.
Gattis' eighth home run of the year snapped a three-game homer drought by the Braves and helped Harang get past a two-run hiccup in the top of the fourth inning.
The Cubs used a leadoff walk and a double by Starlin Castro to set up Nate Schierholtz for a game-tying two-run double. Gattis got Harang the lead again by connecting on Edwin Jackson's first offering of the bottom of the inning.
Harang pitched six innings, allowing only those two runs, struck out nine and walked two. The Braves won for the first time in three starts by Harang, who was leading the majors with a 0.85 ERA until he ran into a Marlins buzz saw in Miami.
The Braves broke out the small ball again in the second, using a leadoff walk and three straight hits to take a 2-0 lead. Ryan Doumit singled to drive in the first run and Andrelton Simmons doubled in the second, for his first extra-base hit and first RBI in 25 at-bats this homestand.
Doumit helped run the Braves out of the inning to end a good scoring threat. With runners second and third and one out, and the Cubs playing the infield in for Jordan Schafer, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had both runners going on contact. When Schafer grounded to the right side of the infield, Anthony Rizzo stepped on first base to get Schafer and fired home to catch Doumit who was easy fodder for the double play after he broke from third and then stopped.
The tone was set, though, and the Braves moved to 13-0 in games when they've scored first.
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