Gerald Laird hadn’t driven in a run all season before Thursday, but the Braves’ veteran backup catcher showed a few times in a span of about 25 hours why he remains a valuable piece on a team with championship aspirations. Laird’s two-out single in the eighth inning Friday lifted the Braves to a rousing 3-2 win in a series opener against the Rockies at Turner Field, their fifth win in six games and 13th in 15 games against Colorado since the start of the 2012 season. On Thursday night, his double drove in the first run of a three-run seventh inning in a 5-4 comeback win against the Brewers, and Laird also had a game-tying, two-out RBI double in the second inning Friday. Laird has started four consecutive games in place of catcher Evan Gattis, who’s recovering from a virus and expected back in the lineup this weekend. Laird’s go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning Friday came just when it looked like the Braves might waste a golden scoring opportunity for the second consecutive inning. They had loaded the bases and failed to score in the seventh. In the eighth, Ramiro Pena led off with a double before Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla both struck out. But soon after the boos stopped following Uggla’s third consecutive strikeout, Laird gave a crowd of 25,646 a jolt with his hit to left field for a 3-2 lead. Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth inning to notch his 13th save, leaving him two shy of matching John Smoltz’s franchise career record of 154 saves. Pena entered the game in the third inning in place of third baseman Chris Johnson, who was pulled from the game after his second-inning strikeout when he threw a tantrum in a hallway that leads from the dugout the clubhouse. Johnson apologized to the team after the game and vowed to begin anew trying to curb his notorious hot temper. The Braves came away with nothing after loading the bases with one out in the seventh. Left-hander Rex Brothers was left in to face Freddie Freeman, who struck out to make him 1-for-6 with three strikeouts and two RBIs with bases loaded. Last season the big first baseman was 10-for-17 with the bases loaded, with two strikeouts and 17 RBIs. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer, who hit a game-tying sixth-inning homer tied the score for the Rockies, made a running catch near the right-field line to rob Justin Upton of a bases-loaded hit to end the seventh inning. The Braves are 4-for-27 (.148) with 12 RBIs when the bases are loaded, after hitting .319 with 98 RBIs in 113 at-bats with bases loaded in 2013. Gavin Floyd had his fourth impressive start in as many outings for the Braves, but the veteran right-hander is still looking for his first win. Floyd was charged with two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven with no walks. He left with the score tied, and he’s 0-1 with a 2.49 ERA in four starts after spending the first five weeks on the disabled list completing his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The strikeout for Johnson was his ninth in a 4-for-26 stretch over his past seven games, with all but one of those hits coming in Thursday’s win against Milwaukee. The Braves made no announcement upon his removal and said manager Fredi Gonzalez would address the situation after the game. Johnson was benched for two games in April after he simmered and boiled over at least once during a pair of four-strikeout games April 10 and April 12. The Braves felt his temper had become detrimental and hitting coach Greg Walker said at that time, “We’re trying to get him to get the fight back between him and the pitcher.” The Braves trailed 1-0 when Johnson left Friday’s game. Colorado scored in the second inning after Nolan Arenado led off t with a line-drive double off the left-field wall, only a foot or two from clearing it. He advanced on an infield single and scored on a Jordan Pacheco groundout.
Braves’ Laird comes through again, RBI in 8th beats Rockies 3-2
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | May 24