Heyward homers in Braves' third straight shutout

Heyward homers in Braves' third straight shutout

Heyward homers in Braves' third straight shutout
NEW YORK -- Given what they endured last September, the Braves are not going to be picky about the manner in which they win. But as they progress through the remainder of this month, they would certainly like to separate themselves from the stress that has followed them the past few days.

Jason Heyward showed his power yet again, and Dan Uggla provided some encouragement with a pair of extra-base hits that provided the Braves some breathing room as they notched their third consecutive shutout with a 3-0 win over the Mets on Friday night.

"I think every team goes through a spurt where they don't score," Braves starting pitcher Paul Maholm said. "I think every team goes through a spurt where their pitching staff gives up runs. We've kind of gone through both here lately. As long as you win, that's the biggest thing."

Before David Ross lofted a sacrifice fly to right field with one out in the seventh inning, the Braves were flirting with the possibility of notching a third consecutive 1-0 win. Unlike the previous two games, this one would have come with the benefit of an earned run.

"I don't think my stomach could have taken it," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team had claimed 1-0 wins over the Rockies on Wednesday and Thursday while plating just a pair of unearned runs.

Courtesy of the work provided by Maholm and five relievers, the Braves did notch a third consecutive shutout victory for the first time in exactly 10 years. The last time the Braves did this was Sept. 4-7, 2002. Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood and Damian Moss started those games.

Heyward provided the Braves all that they needed when he drilled Jon Niese's full-count fastball over the right-center-field wall with one out in the fourth inning. This solo shot increased the 23-year-old outfielder's career-best homer total to 25 and gave the Braves their first earned run since the third inning of Monday's win over the Rockies.

The Braves went 27 consecutive innings without scoring an earned run and they have scored two over their past 32 innings. Still, they have won five of their past six games with the strength of their rotation and a relief corps led by Craig Kimbrel, who notched his 35th save with two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth inning. This marked the first time Kimbrel has worked three consecutive days since July 18-20.

When Kimbrel was showing signs of fatigue late last season, the Braves were losing games like this one. Consequently, they blew the 9 1/2-game lead they had in the Wild Card race entering September.

"We've been winning games," Maholm said. "We haven't been scoring a ton. But I've pitched against this [Braves] lineup plenty over the course of my career, and it's dangerous. It can break out at any time. You just try to go out there and throw up as many zeros as you can."

Uggla provided some encouragement when he doubled in the sixth inning and then padded the Braves' lead with a ninth-inning home run off Jenrry Mejia. The All-Star second baseman has shown signs of life since the Braves kept him out of the starting lineup for the first three games this week.

This marked the first time that he had two extra-base hits in a game since June 5.

"I'm back," Uggla said. "Just because I hit the ball hard and maybe have a bad night by going 0-for-4, it's not about searching for it. It's here. This is me, and I'm going to be ready to go."

Given the way the Braves have managed to win the past few days, it might have been fitting that they scored at least one of their runs in unearned fashion. Uggla opened the seventh inning with a double and then advanced to third base when Mets catcher Kelly Shoppach made an errant throw while attempting to pick him off second base. Ross followed with his sacrifice fly.

Maholm was nowhere near as effective as he was when he threw 95 pitches in a three-hit shutout against the Mets on Aug. 10. But while scattering five hits over 5 1/3 scoreless innings, the left-hander kept the Mets frustrated and allowed his teammates to work through their offensive funk.

The Mets produced two baserunners in three of the first four innings and five of the six in which Maholm pitched. But the veteran left-hander never flinched. He produced two consecutive strikeouts of Daniel Murphy and David Wright after allowing consecutive one-out singles in the third inning.

"When good stuff happens, you feed off it," Gonzalez said. "When you hit, it's contagious. When you pitch, it's contagious also. Right now, we're pitching it pretty good."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.