Baseball / Sports

Six-run inning sends Diamondbacks past Braves 6-5

PHOENIX -- Things were looking so good for the Atlanta Braves on Sunday at Chase Field. Justin Upton had just hit a two-run home run against his former team for a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth, and Aaron Harang had retired the Arizona Diamondbacks in order in the bottom of the inning including two on strikeouts.

But things can change quickly in a ballpark known to favor hitters, and the afternoon went sideways quickly for the Braves in the seventh inning.

A six-run Arizona inning that featured two-run homers by David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt propelled the Diamondbacks to a 6-5 victory that clinched the three-game series. The Braves also blew two leads in Saturday's 11-inning loss, but nothing so thorough and rapid as what happened Sunday.

"It happened fast," said rookie reliever David Hale, who gave up the homer to Goldschmidt. "We had a lead going into that inning and all of a sudden we were down by four, so yeah, it's not ideal."

The Braves didn't roll over after the six-run outburst. They mounted a two-run rally in the eighth that began with a Freddie Freeman home run, his first in 18 games.

"We know the game's never over, and we know what we're capable of doing if we put a few good at-bats together," Justin Upton said. "We made a run at it but came up short. All in all, we battled and that's all you can ask for."

A walk and a hit later after Freeman's 10th homer, rookie Tommy La Stella drove in a run -- the second RBI of his career -- to cut the lead to 6-4. But after Andrelton Simmons walked to load the bases, Gerald Laird struck out.

Ramiro Pena hit a home run on the first pitch of the ninth inning for the Braves' final run.

"The effort that we got after that seventh inning when they scored six runs -- most teams would roll over there," said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves are now in a three-way tie with Washington and Miami for first place in the NL East, with a four-game series in Colorado starting Monday.

"But our guys came back and made it a one-run game with the top of the order up, and we were really proud of our guys for doing that. There was still fight left after that seventh inning."

The Braves dropped the last two games of the series, giving up big home runs and costly walks while blowing leads in both losses and raising more concerns about a bullpen that has looked increasingly vulnerable in recent weeks.

Harang (4-5) was charged with four hits, three runs and six walks in six innings. He didn't give up a hit until Peralta's leadoff single in the fifth, and had allowed five walks but only hits when Gonzalez sent him back out to pitch the seventh with a 2-0 lead and his pitch count near 100.

"You've got to run him back out there (in the seventh)," Gonzalez said, mentioning the recent difficulties getting leads from the starters to closer Craig Kimbrel. "He's got a two-hit shutout, and we've been watching that seventh inning where we can't bridge it, so we tried to run him back out there and let him get us through that seventh inning somehow.

"Yeah, he had some walks, but you felt comfortable that he could maneuver through the lineup."

By the time Peralta broke up the no-hit bit in the fifth, Harang had already walked four and worked out of a couple of jams. He escaped from an even more precarious situation in the fifth after the Diamondbacks loaded the bases on Peralta's hit, a walk by No. 8 hitter Cody Ross, and a bunt single by pitcher Chase Anderson, the first hit of his career.

Anderson (5-0) limited the Braves to five hits and two runs with one walk and eight strikeouts in seven innings.

The bases were loaded with none out, but Harang made escape look as easy as, well, 1-2-3: He induced a comebacker by Gerardo Parra and threw to home for the force to start a 1-2-3 double play, then struck out Chris Owings.

He struck out Goldschmidt and Montero to start the sixth to make it three K's in a row, then got Martin Prado to line out to end the inning and make it six outs in a span of five batters. But those would be the last outs recorded by Harang.

After allowing a leadoff single by Aaron Hill in the seventh, Harang gave up a game-tying homer by Peralta, the first of his career.

"Pitching out of the stretch in stressful situations just finally got to me and wore me out, and I wasn't able to execute those quality pitches in the seventh," Harang said.

Fredi wanted to give you chance to go out and pitch seventh, you had about 100 pitches at that point, how'd you feel?

"I felt good, but obviously wasn't that sharp," Harang said. "I don't know, pressure situations earlier in the game must have ended up taking a toll. I left a couple of pitches over the plate."

Harang walked Ross again before Gonzalez brought in left-hander Luis Avilan, who walked the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Eric Chavez. Leadoff man Parra laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners, and right-hander David Hale was brought in to face Chris Owings.

Owings singled through the left side to score both for a 4-2 lead, and Goldschmidt followed with a long homer on Hale's 3-1 fastball to push the lead to 6-2.

"That's the wrong guy you want to make a mistake to," Hale said. "I just left a fastball over the plate."

Gonzalez said, "That seventh inning just unravels on us. Avi walks a left-hander, then David comes in and gives up three or four runs and we just couldn't get out of that inning."

(c)2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

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