With a weekend series against the Phillies looming, the Braves had their sights set on their four-game set with the Brewers to round out the midweek series at Turner Field.
Coming into the series, the Braves had lost two of three from the Cardinals, and earlier in the season had lost 3 of 4 to the Brewers in Milwaukee.
But this series proved to be a whole lot different, as the Braves asserted their dominance at Turner Field, sweeping the series from the Brewers and will head into Citizens Bank Park winners of 5 straight.
Monday’s series opener pitted Jair Jurrjens against Yovanni Gallardo. Gallardo threw a complete game, two-hitt shutout against the Braves April 5 and was looking to duplicate that result.
But David Ross, who has become a great backup catcher this year, jumped on a Gallardo offering in the bottom of the 2nd inning, his third home run of the year, and proving that opposing pitchers cannot pitch around any spot in the Atlanta lineup.
The Brewers broke through for two runs to take a short-lived 2-1 lead, but the Braves stormed back in the 6th on Alex Gonzalez’s bases clearing triple, putting the Braves up 4-2 before Nate McLouth’s single gave the Braves a three-run cushion.
That was all Jurrjens needed, as he shut the Brewers down after the fourth inning, scattering 7 hits over 7 2/3 innings, striking out 4 and walking none while giving up the two runs, improving his record to 3-0 and lowering his E.R.A to 1.52 over four starts.
After Tuesday’s game was rained out, the Braves schedule a doubleheader for the next day, as they will not see the Brewers for the rest of the regular season.
Tuesday’s scheduled starters were the same for game 1 of Wednesday’s double dip, as Tommy Hanson took on Marco Estrada.
The Brewers got on the board first on Craig Counsell’s RBI-single in the bottom of the 2nd. But the Brewer lead was short lived, as were most Milwaukee leads this series, as Martin Prado and Brian McCann each had run-scoring singles to put the Braves up 2-1.
Prince Fielder did was he does best, and tied the game with one swing of the bat, but Prado came through for the Braves again, looping a single into center and driving in two more, putting the Braves back on top, 4-2.
Atlanta put the game away in the bottom of the 6th, when McLouth scored on a wild pitch and Chipper Jones had a two-RBI single before McCann’s run-producing sacrifice fly made it 8-2.
On the mound, Hanson was dealing, continuing his strong stretch and tossing 6 strong innings, avenging an April 7, 4-2 loss in Milwaukee. Hanson struck out 7 and walked two while only allowing three hits, improving his record to 4-3 and his E.R.A to 2.63.
Wednesday’s nightcap was a matchup of two former AL standout pitchers who made their way to the NL.
For Tim Hudson, this was not the first time he went up against a former AL pitcher, but it was Zack Greinke’s first start in an NL ballpark, and the Braves did not give him a warm welcome, as the Braves took advantage of a catcher’s interference and put Greinke in a 1-0 hole on Dan Uggla’s RBI-single in the bottom of the first.
In the bottom of the second innning, the Braves scored on another gift, a walk to McLouth, and Prado’s single scored him, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead.
That was more than enough for Hudson, who tossed a complete-game one-hit shutout, striking out six and walking one, earning his 4th win of the season. lowering his E.R.A to a 2.86.
But the Braves were not done with Greinke, as Eric Hinkse’s RBI-double gave the Braves a three-run lead before McLouth’s blast to right field put the Braves up 5-0.
Hinkse grabbed another RBI in the 6th on a sac-fly and Freddie Freeman notched two RBI’s of his own with a single, well after the Braves had already swept the doubleheader.
Thursday’s finale was a chance for the Braves to take the season series from the Brewers and head into Philadelphia with a head of steam.
After three days of offensive displays from the Braves, the fans at Turner Field were greeted with an old fashioned pitchers duel, as Brandon Beachy and Shaun Marcum tried to outduel each other.
The Braves broke through first in the bottom of the 2nd, when Eric Hinske pulled a Marcum offering into the right field seats.
Beachy held the lead until the 5th inning after a run-scoring sacrifice fly, but after one more inning, his day was done. The rookie tossed 6 strong innings for the fourth consecutive start, allowing four hits and the one run (unearned) as he tied his career-high in strikeouts with 9 and walked just one.
Marcum’s night was done after the 7th inning and his 98th pitch, but it was just what the Braves needed, as Prado jumped on a 3-1 fastball from Brewer reliever Kameron Loe, sending it into the left field seats. The Braves threatened later in the 9th after Chipper’s one-out double and McCann’s walk, but were unable to add any insurance for Craig Kimbrel.
It did not matter, as the rookie needed 12 pitches, striking out two for his 7th save of the year after Jonny Venters retired worked around a leadoff single to Rickie Weeks and struck out Ryan Braun swinging and Fielder looking to end the inning.
Now, the Braves (18-15) turn their attention north to the Phillies, who come in at 21-9, the NL’s best mark.
Game 1 will feature Derek Lowe against Cliff Lee, and the Braves saw Lee well the first time they saw him this season, April 8, torching the lefty for 6 runs on 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings, the Braves only win of series.
Lowe dropped his first decision to the Phillies, 3-0, as he gave up 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out two - his lowest total all season.
Saturday’s game will deature Jurrjens against Roy Oswalt.
It will be the first time the Phillies have seen Jurrjens since July 2010, when the righty gave up 2 runs on 6 hits and struck out 4 over 6 innings, taking a no decision in a Braves 6-3 win.
Oswalt earned the victory in his previous start against the Braves, a 10-2 Phillie win. He tossed 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits and striking out 2 for his second win of the year.
In Sunday’s finale, the ESPN Game of the Week, Hanson goes opposite Cole Hamels, a pitcher the Braves have seen either on his game or completely off.
This is the first time this year the Phillies will see Hanson, who has won his last 3 starts.
Last year, Hanson pitched well against the Phillies, not allowing a run in 11 innings, earning a no decision each time as he allowed 8 hits and struck out 10.
In Hamels, the Braves are looking to avenge an April 10 3-0 loss. In that start, Hamels gave up 4 hits and struck out 8 over 7 innings, earning his first win of the season.
But the Braves know that beating the Phillies means shutting down their potent offense as well.
Keys to the series
- Continue the success in May
- The Braves are 5-0 in May after a 13-15 April and are looking to continue to gain ground on the Marlins and Phillies in the competitive NL East
- Everyone makes mistakes, even the Phillie pitchers
- When they make those mistakes, jump on them. If the Brewers made a mistake, the Braves jumped all over them. The same must be said against the Phillies.
- Make their hitters chase pitches
- Their lineup is patient, but can go after pitches in the dirt from time to time. Get them guessing and they will be off balance all weekend
Notes: Hanson has struck out at least 7 in his last 4 starts.. Jurrjens has not allowed more than 2 runs in his 4 starts this year.. Hudson’s complete game shutout victory was his first since May 2, 2008.. Prado is currently hitting .341 during a 9-game-hitting streak and is3-for-8 with 2 doubles against Lee in his career.. Lee is 1-2 with a 6.98 E.R.A in his career against the Braves.. Hamels has won 4 of his last 5 starts and has allowed 3 runs or fewers and struck out at least 6 while pitching at least 7 innings. Prado went 7-for-18 with a double, a home run and 5 RBI’s vs Milwaukee..Heyward was 1-for-13 (double, 3 BB).. Chipper 4-for-12 (2 doubles, 2 RBI).. Uggla was 5-for-16 (double, 3 R, RBI).. McCann was 2-for-5 (2 RBI).. Freeman 3-for-10 (3 RBI, 2 R).. Gonzalez was 5-for-14 (double, 3 RBI, 3 R).. McLouth was 6-for-12 (HR, double, 3 RBI, 4 R)..