ATLANTA -- Possibly benefiting from some of the confidence that was gained with Tuesday's surprising performance against Toronto's potent offense, the Braves much-maligned and inexperienced bullpen showed more positive growth while escaping multiple jams during Friday night's 2-1 win over the Phillies at Turner Field.
The Braves relief corps stranded 11 runners and did not allow a run after starting pitcher Williams Perez exited with two outs in the sixth inning. This marked the second time in four days that this group worked at least 3 1/3 scoreless innings. It was just the fifth time they had done so dating back to July 30, when the bullpen's experienced depth was decimated by the trade that sent Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan to the Dodgers.
"There were a lot of high pressure situations," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "They left [a bunch] of guys on. It seemed like every single inning, they were able to wiggle themselves out of those jams."
Some unnecessary excitement was created as Arodys Vizcaino completed his fifth save in six opportunities. The young closer notched three consecutive strikeouts after the Phillies put two on with none out courtesy of Jeff Francoeur's leadoff walk and a Hector Olivera error. Unfortunately, the third strikeout was recorded on a pitch that bounced off catcher Christian Bethancourt and landed in the stands.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the misfortune that allowed the Phillies to load the bases with two outs in the ninth, Vizcaino remained focused and induced Darin Ruf's game-ending liner to second baseman Daniel Castro.
"That's another growing moment," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's got to get five outs to get a save and he kept his composure the whole time."
While Vizcaino has proven reliable since being forced to assume the closer's role just 32 appearances into his career, Andrew McKirahan and Matt Marksberry have experienced the inconsistencies you'd expect from pitchers who never pitched above the Double-A level before this season.
McKirahan erased the two runners he inherited from Perez and concluded the sixth inning with a bases-loaded strikeout of Francoeur. With runners at the corners and one out in the seventh, the rookie southpaw induced a Odubel Herrera comebacker and then flipped the ball out of his glove to Bethancourt, who made a nice tag on Chase d'Arnaud.
The bullpen's elder statesman, Peter Moylan, then entered and ended the seventh with a Ruf groundout. Since coming back to the Majors in August, Moylan has made a successful return from a second Tommy John surgery and in the process served as a valuable mentor to the young relievers.
After Moylan did his job, the Braves handed the ball to Marksberry, who worked a scoreless eighth and added to the splendor of his journey that began this year with Class A Advanced Carolina.
"It's fun watching these guys develop," Gonzalez said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.