Home runs are no strangers to the Atlanta Braves, and they proved that Wednesday afternoon.
Even without the Upton brothers in the starting lineup, the Braves took down the Cincinnati Reds by way of two Dan Uggla bombs and an eighth-inning Juan Francisco grand slam that quickly took the game from a two-run dogfight to a 7-2 walk in the park.
It wasn’t just another day in the regular Braves’ shoes, though.
Despite striking out the second-most times in the MLB this season(behind the lowly Houston Astros, but we can just ignore them), Atlanta only struck out seven times while posting ten hits. No Uptons might have helped, too.
When you match such offensive efficiency with steady and consistent hitting (and a grand slam), you pretty much know what to expect. Mike Minor, who’d be Atlanta’s biggest pitching surprise of the year if it wasn’t for Paul Maholm, continued his solid year with another seven innings pitched while allowing one earned run. His ERA now sits at 2.96.
Inversely, Reds SP Mike Leake tossed an average seven innings while allowing four earned and continues to give Reds manager Dusty Baker reason to consider keeping 23-year-old Tony Cingrani in the rotation even upon Johnny Cueto’s return from the DL.
Baker’s been known to side with the pitcher who has at least somewhat of a track record, but if Cingrani continues to pitch well and Leake continues to scuffle through starts, it’ll be an interesting situation to keep an eye on.
Looking at a few comparative numbers, it was a promising win for Atlanta. They’re currently 20th in MLB in batting average and only 14th in runs scored despite having the fourth-most home runs in the league. Yes, they hit three homers, but scattering ten hits while only striking out seven times is a step in the right direction.
The power and striking out come correlated, but once B.J. Upton starts hitting and Jason Heyward returns after his appendectomy-induced DL stint, a decline in Ks and improvement in team average will make this team even scarier than they already are.