The Atlanta Braves seem to have found their stride heading into the All-Star break. Brian McCann hit a home run in his third straight game, and Tommy Hanson recovered from a rough second inning en route to the Braves' third straight victory, downing the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.
McCann, who has gone 5-for-11 in his last three games, put the Braves on the board with a solo homer in the second inning. He would later tie the game in the fourth inning with a single. His hit put Freddie Freeman at third, setting up the go-ahead sacrifice fly from Andrelton Simmons to give Phillies starter Joe Blanton the loss.
"We were sitting around talking today that it would be nice to come in here and play our best baseball going into the break," McCann said. "This is really the first time we've had our regulars in there for an extended period of time. When we do we are able to come back. If we get down, we don't feel like we can't come back at any point."
The two-run fourth helped erase a three-run second inning, one of only two innings in which Hanson allowed a baserunner in his seven innings.
With a one-run lead, Hanson surrendered a lead-off double to Carlos Ruiz off the left-center field wall, which was followed by a Hunter Pence single. Ruiz would be thrown out trying to score on a grounder by Placido Polanco.
With the outfield drawn in, Juan Pierre brought home two on a double over Jason Heyward. Blanton would follow with an RBI-single. Both of his hits this year have been against the Braves.
Hanson would not give up another baserunner until Pence singled in the seventh inning. He was perfect in five of his frames.
"You just need to keep making pitches," Hanson said. "You can't really look at it like I gave up three runs in two innings. If you do, it's going to be a bad day. I knew I had good stuff. I was just trying to get my command going. Once I did that, I started getting the results that I needed."
Simmons also reminded the Braves of his defensive value in the sixth inning when he made a sliding stop on a Chase Utley grounder up the middle before throwing him out at first, denying him a single. He would also start clutch double plays in the seventh and eighth innings.
Newly minted All-Star Michael Bourn collected three hits, as if to remind everyone that he belongs there. His most exciting play, however came after he and Martin Prado had executed a double steal to put him at third. Heyward struck out swinging, but the ball was in the dirt. Ruiz did a weak job of looking back Bourn, and Bourn turned on the afterburners to score ahead of Ryan Howard's throw.
"That’s not a set play or anything," Fredi Gonzalez said. "That’s straight heads-up aggressive baseball.”
The offensive outburst against Blanton was an utter turnaround from the last time Atlanta faced him on May 3, when he needed 88 pitches in a three-hit shutout.
Somehow, even with winning 19 of their last 42 games, the Braves sit just five games behind the Washington Nationals. Braves fans will be happy to know that the Phillies are currently 14 out and in last place.
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