The Braves could have very easily lost Saturday night's game. Tim Hudson wasn't quite a sharp as he can be, the club only recorded seven hits and some questionable defensive plays were made in the early-going. The Orioles hit the ball well all night, including three home runs, and their bullpen allowed just one base runners in three innings to end the game.
Thank goodness for David Ross, the best backup catcher in Major League Baseball. With his help and another good-enough pitching performance from the staff, Atlanta won their fifth straight game and will go for their second consecutive sweep on Sunday afternoon.
As afore mentioned, Tim Hudson wasn't as sharp as he has been in previous starts, but then again, he doesn't give up a run if he doesn't make two mistakes to Mark Reynolds. Hudson worked six innings and gave up eight hits and walked three, though he did give up two homers to Reynolds. He struck out six Orioles on the night.
Jake Arrieta, who came into the game with nine victories despite an ERA in the mid-4's, pitched well and didn't deserve the loss. He allowed six hits and two walks, though two of those hits and a walk should never have happened. He struck out five and was able to consistently throw strikes with an inconsistent strike zone. It was strong effort for Arrieta, but he just couldn't overcome a few mistakes both he and the defense behind him made.
The Orioles took the lead for the first time in 40 innings with a 2-run homer to dead-center field from Mark Reynolds in the fourth inning. It was a no-doubt shot and the ball traveled at least 415 feet.
The Braves countered in the bottom half of the fourth with a little bit of luck and a little bit of blast. With two quick outs already in the book, Chipper Jones doubled and Freddie Freeman advanced to first after being hit in the foot with a pitch. Dan Uggla rocketed a fastball into left field that should have been caught by Luke Scott, but the outfielder got a late jump on the ball and had it pop out of his glove as he went to his knees to catch it. Chipper came around from second to score and the Braves still had life in the inning.
Nate McLouth had a phenomenal at-bat to draw a 9-pitch walk to load the bases. David Ross, who was filling in as Brian McCann had the night off, destroyed a belt-high fastball and sent it fifteen rows deep into the Turner Field seats in left. The crowd of 37, 259 erupted and Ross' blast gave Atlanta a 5-2 lead.
Baltimore battled back in the following innings. Mark Reynolds hit a solo-home run to left field to cut the score to 5-3 and Nick Markakis sent a Scott Linebrink fastball over the center field wall in the seventh inning. With Eric O'Flaherty on the mound, Baltimore had runners on second and third with two outs. After just missing a hanging slider on the previous pitch, Markakis popped a ball up to Nate McLouth in left field to end the threat.
Craig Kimbrel came in to protect the one run lead in the ninth and did so in typical Craig Kimbrel fashion: two strikeouts and a popup. The save was Kimbrel's 24th of the season, just two back of Jonathan Papelbon's All-Star Break record of 26 saves.
Tim Hudson improved to 7-6 this season and his ERA now sits at 3.57.
The Braves will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon as the club honors our nation's military. It'll be Brandon Beachy against lefty Zach Britton. Weather permitting, first pitch will be at 1:35 EDT.