The Atlanta Braves played a sound overall game on Tuesday night and came away with a 4-3 road win over the Kansas City Royals and starter Ervin Santana. Other than two throwing errors by Braves’ pitchers, it was a complete effort in all facets of the game — pitching, defense and hitting.
It started with Kris Medlen (5-7, 3.02) on the hill, notching a quality start by going seven innings and giving up three runs on seven hits to earn the victory. He was efficient in his seven innings, throwing 63 strikes in 93 pitches while striking out five batters to just one walk. His only real mistake on the night was a two-out two-run home run by Eric Hosmer in the fifth inning.
Medlen has now won four of his past five starts and looks to be finding a rhythm on the mound as the All-Star break approaches.
Jason Heyward provided the key hits to carry the offense. Heyward put the Braves up top in the fifth inning with a two-run double. After the Royals tied the game, Heyward hit a solo home run in the seventh inning, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Like Medlen, Heyward has also improved in June. The outfielder is hitting .297 with a .837 OPS and four home runs in the month. He has traditionally hit better after May throughout his career, and it looks to be holding true in 2013.
The bullpen finished off the game as they’ve done all season. Jordan Walden pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and Craig Kimbrel picked up his 22nd save of the season. Kimbrel did make things interesting in the ninth inning as he faced runners on first and third with no outs following a walk and a single. However, he buckled down to get consecutive strikeouts and a fly out to finish the game.
This is what makes the Braves a potentially dangerous team. They rank fourth in the National League with a 3.41 starters’ ERA. The bullpen tops the MLB with a 2.74 ERA, and the offense leads the National League with 97 home runs. If the Braves can get some hits in key situations, this team can play with anyone.
The Braves have been terrible so far this season with runners in scoring position and still hold a six-game lead in the division. They demonstrated the blueprint to keeping that division lead and having success throughout the rest of this season. Now, they just need to consistently execute it.