Baseball / Sports

Braves sweep doubleheader against Phillies, 10-3 and 5-1

PHILADELPHIA -- Talk about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off.

On a trip that started with a series split in Washington to fall out of first place and was nearing a close with Saturday's day-night doubleheader against a Phillies team that just swept them at home, the Braves responded with a sweep of their own.

The Braves won the day game 10-3, and the nightcap 5-1 to go up 3-0 in the weekend series.

And the Braves did all this on a day when they weren't sure what they would get from their cleanup hitter and primary catcher Evan Gattis, who left Friday's game with back spasms and hasn't returned.

The Braves got the starting pitching they needed, closer Craig Kimbrel never broke a sweat, Tommy La Stella swung his way out of a slump, and the Braves flew up catching prospect Christian Bethancourt in time to send him out for his first major league start behind the plate Saturday night.

Bethancourt answered with his major league hit on an infield single, which just sort of fit with the theme of the day.

Somewhere over the course of these two games, and the latter part of this trip, the Braves became run-manufacturing fiends. They scored 10 runs in the first game, without the benefit of a home run, and they went up 4-1 in the second without a long ball either. Ryan Doumit just reminded them who they were when he sent a solo home run to the right field seats in the eighth inning of Game 2.

Jordan Schafer had led off the second game with an infield hit, stole second and scored on a Justin Upton sacrifice. The Braves picked it back up with five straight two-out hits in a three-run sixth inning, featuring a two-run double by La Stella.

La Stella, who broke an 0-for-23 in the first game with a bases-clearing triple, doubled twice in the night cap. Bethancourt followed with a ground ball to the hole off left-hander Mario Hollands, which shortstop Jimmy Rollins pocketed long enough to throw toward the Braves dugout as a keepsake.

On a day when you're always concerned about conserving pitching, the Braves got 6 2/3 innings from Ervin Santana, and 10 runs in Game 1 so they could save their bullpen for Game 2.

Then David Hale went five innings in a spot start in Game 2, allowing one run, on 74 pitches, which was the best-case scenario as far as the Braves were concerned.

Santana rediscovered a little of his "Magic" in the first game, the nickname he introduced to his teammates early this spring that fit with the dominant pitching he brought to an injury-riddled Braves rotation.

He limited the Phillies to two runs in 6 2/3 innings and then sat back and watched the Braves break the game open with a five-run eighth to help snap his three-game losing streak.

"It's about time," said Santana, smiling, who hadn't won since May 31 in Miami.

His batterymate Gerald Laird had just said before the game that Santana's been battling, the Braves just needed to score him some runs. He got them in spades on Saturday.

Justin Upton had two of his four hits in Game 1, and drove in three runs. La Stella hit a bases-clearing triple to snap an 0-for-23 streak with his first major league triple to fuel the five-run eighth.

The 10 runs matched the Braves biggest offensive output since their 13-10 win June 10 in the light air of Colorado. Freddie Freeman scored four runs in the game without getting a hit -- only the 10th player to do that since 1975. He drew three walks and reached on an error.

"Our offense scored two runs on some miscues, but our situational hitting was good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

The Braves got their offense going in the first game with a little help from Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. His errors on back-to-back plays in the fourth helped the Braves score their first two runs off Roberto Hernandez. Upton didn't need much help to get their next two off him in the sixth. He smoked a ball off the Gulf sign in left center field for a two-run double, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead.

Chris Johnson, who has been double-play prone this season, broke through with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning to drive in the first of five runs off left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo. He grounded a single just out of the reach of shortstop Ronny Cedeno into left field.

La Stella followed with his slump buster, with two strikes against him from Bastardo.

"I overswung on that one fastball that I swung through, so I was really conscious of slowing myself down and making sure that I put something in play and at least get a sac fly," La Stella said. "I put a good swing on the ball earlier in the game and it got caught out in left field so it was good to put another on and have something fall for me."

Santana gave up two hard hit balls in the first two innings for extra-base hits by Tony Gwynn Jr. and Koyie Hill. Both came in to score on softly hit balls -- a bloop single to left by Ryan Howard in the first and a grounder past second in the second inning by the pitcher Roberto Hernandez.

Hernandez single was only the second major league hit in 43 major league at-bats for the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, who spent the first eight years of his career in the American League with the Indians and Rays.

That ball might have sharpened Santana's focus, though, because he retired the next nine batters he faced. Santana coaxed 10 groundouts and two flyouts to keep his pitch count low and was still at only 78 pitches through six innings.

He found trouble against in the seventh, giving up a two-out double to Ben Revere to leave runners second and third. But Luis Avilan got pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. to ground out to end the inning.

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

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