Series MVP: The best player in this series came down to Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla for the Atlanta Braves. I give the edge to Simmons as he torched the Cincinnati Reds all series. He finished 8-for-13 with two home runs, four RBIs and three runs scored. More impressively, Simmons found success at the plate from three different spots in the lineup — No. 8, No. 1, No. 2.
With Jason Heyward still out, manager Fredi Gonzalez continues to shuffle the lineup, which hasn’t seemed to bother Simmons. His long-term position in the lineup in 2013 will be the lead-off spot. Simmons finding his stride and cementing his role as the lead-off hitter will allow the Braves’ lineup to flourish.
Dan Uggla: Uggla has started to heat up at the plate and recorded his first multi-home run game of the season on Wednesday. He finished 5-for-12 with the two home runs, three RBIs and five runs scored. Uggla raised his average to .209 and his on-base percentage to .315. He, along with Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, have allowed the Braves to find success against left-handed pitching, which has plagued the team the past few seasons.
Freddie Freeman: Freeman entered this series coming off a big game against the New York Mets, and he followed it up with a solid performance in Cincinnati. Freeman went 4-for-12 with three RBIs and two runs. The first baseman provided consistent production from the middle of the order and had a clutch RBI single on Wednesday before Juan Francisco opened up the game with a grand slam. Freeman seems to be finding his groove since struggling in his return from the disabled list.
Mike Minor: The bullpen was tired, and the Braves were looking to get the road trip off to a good start following a tough loss in game two. They needed a strong start from Minor, and they got it. Minor went seven innings, allowing just one earned run (solo home run by Zack Cozart) and striking out seven. Gonzalez showed trust in the left-hander by allowing him to work out of a jam in the seventh inning with his pitch count high. Minor rewarded Gonzalez for his trust by getting Mike Leake to harmlessly fly out with runners on first and second and two outs. Minor’s gutsy start allowed the Braves to give the bullpen a much-needed rest.
Eric O’Flaherty: O’Flaherty did a solid job working out of a mess created by Jordan Walden on Monday, but followed that up with a rough outing on Tuesday. He took a line drive off the back to lead-off the inning, which Simmons spectacularly cleaned up to record an out. Three of the next four Reds’ hitters got hits off him to cut the lead to 4-3. He managed to get a hold, but one wonders if the Braves would have won that game with a two-run lead heading into the ninth inning.
Craig Kimbrel: Kimbrel recorded his 99th career save on Monday night, but like O’Flaherty, followed up on Tuesday night with a dud. Kimbrel was one strike away from recording save No. 100 and then gave up back-to-back solo home runs to blow the save and take the loss in the 5-4 defeat. The Braves’ dominant closer has already allowed as many home runs and blown as many saves as he did the entire 2012 season. The Braves need him to get back on track and be the backbone of the team to finish games.
Evan Gattis: The slugger got his first starts in left field with the return of Brian McCann, and he had his ups and downs. Meanwhile, things at the plate didn’t go so well. He finished 1-for-11 with five strikeouts and nine runners left on base. Gattis has seen his average drop to .243 on the season and will see his playing time decrease with the return of McCann and most likely Heyward in the next week.