Their primary strengths have been starting pitching and hitting home runs, and Saturday night the surging Braves stung the Reds with both components. Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Justin Upton and Evan Gattis hit back-to-back jacks in the third inning, more than enough support for rookie pitcher David Hale in a 4-1 win at Turner Field. Hale (1-0) allowed just two hits, one run and two walks with four strikeouts in eight innings, and the Marietta native was nearly perfect after giving up a two-out RBI double by Ryan Ludwick in the first inning. He retired the last 14 batters he faced and recorded 22 outs in his last 22 batters, reducing that 1-0 first-inning deficit to a blip. “He’s not the type of guy to get rattled,” Upton said. “He’s cool, calm and collected most of the time. So it’s not surprising to us.” The only batter to reach base after Ludwick was Jay Bruce on a leadoff walk in the fourth inning, and he was erased when Hale induced an inning-ending double-play grounder. Craig Kimbrel allowed a walk in the ninth inning before striking out Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to convert his eighth save. “After the first inning he settled down and did a nice job getting us deep in the ballgame,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Hale. “He did a nice job, and then offensively, Justin and Freeman and Gattis with home runs — pretty much that was it. That was all the runs we needed.” There’s been plenty of speculation that Hale could be the odd man out of the majors’ top rotation when Mike Minor is activated from the disabled list in the next week or so. Hale was asked if he thought about that Saturday. “Obviously that stuff runs through my head,” he said. “But I try not to let it go too deep. My goal is to come out here and do the best I can, and let things fall the way they will. So we’ll see what happens.” Asked if Hale’s performance Saturday make a decision more difficult, Gonzalez declined to discuss the rotation situation. Justin Upton went 3-for-3 with a walk in four plate appearances, and brother B.J. Upton had a first-inning infield single for his 1,000th career hit. It was cue shot of a hit, but a milestone is a milestone, and B.J. said it was special for him. “Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Any time you can stay around long enough to get 1,000 hits in the big leagues, that’s pretty cool. All the guys congratulated me. J-Hey (Jason Heyward) told me it was probably going to be a bloop, because of the two balls I hit (hard) yesterday. It was very similar to a bloop, but I’ll take it, and I’ll take the 1,000.” If not for a leaping catch by Ludwick with his glove above the left-field fence in the third inning, Freeman could’ve had two homers and the Braves might have had three consecutive homers in an inning for the second time in two weeks.
Braves ride homers and Hale to 4-1 win over Reds
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Apr 27