J-Up, Johnson lead Braves in rout of Marlins

J-Up, Johnson lead Braves in rout of Marlins

J-Up, Johnson lead Braves in rout of Marlins

ATLANTA -- Chris Johnson did not draw much attention when the Braves acquired him in the same trade that brought Justin Upton to Atlanta. But with this season a little more than halfway complete, he remains one of the most consistent contributors on a club that owns a comfortable lead atop the National League East standings.

There were plenty of reasons for the Braves to be excited, as they tallied a season-high 16 hits and matched their season-high run total in Tuesday night's 11-3 win over the Marlins at Turner Field. But it was Johnson's go-ahead, two-run double with two outs in the sixth inning that served as the most influential blow.

"This game of ours, it starts so innocently," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "A walk or a base hit or somebody miss-hits a ball or a base-hit bloop, and next thing you know, somebody puts a big number up."

This actually had the makings to be one of the frustrating games in which the Braves squander scoring opportunities. They stranded Freddie Freeman after he reached third base with no outs in the third inning and recorded consecutive strikeouts after beginning their decisive sixth inning with three consecutive singles off Dan Jennings.

But after quieting the threat with a pair of strikeouts, Marlins right-handed reliever Ryan Webb was left feeling helpless as Johnson lined his go-ahead double past the first-base bag and into right field. The opposite-field shot highlighted a three-hit night for the Braves third baseman, who owns a team-high .330 batting average.

"I thought Webb was going to get out of that inning, and Chris put in a good at-bat and snuck that ball right inside the first-base line," Gonzalez said. "It was not only two runs, but gave us a couple more opportunities to put a big number up."

Jordan Schafer and Andrelton Simmons added a pair of insurance runs when they followed Johnson's double with consecutive infield singles. The Braves were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position before recording the three consecutive two-out hits in the sixth inning.

"I think whenever you get in that kind of a rut, everybody is pressing to be that guy that gets that hit," said Johnson, who has hit .346 (9-for-26) with two outs and runners in scoring position. "It's good that we have a lot of guys on our team that want to be that guy and want to get that hit."

Brian McCann and Upton matched Johnson's three-hit output and helped the Braves increase their lead in the NL East to seven games. They have won four straight and 21 of their past 26 home games. The Marlins had won 10 of their previous 14 games.

"They've got a lot of different weapons," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "They've got a lot of different guys who can do some damage up and down. You've got to pitch. You can't live in one spot. You've got to move the ball in and out, and you've got to keep guys off the basepaths. If you can do that, you've got a shot. If you don't, they're going to get you."

Upton recorded the first of the three singles that opened the sixth inning and began the bottom of the third with a triple that put him in position to score when Juan Pierre misplayed Freeman's sacrifice fly into a three-base error. Things have not come easy for Upton since he tore through April with 12 home runs. But he has provided some encouragement while hitting .355 (11-for-31) in his past eight games.

"As of late, I'm putting the barrel on the ball," Upton said. "I haven't been able to do that for a while. That's the goal every day. Whether you get four or five at-bats, you just want to be a tough out. I've been able to do that for the last week or so."

Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen had an interesting evening, as he surrendered a two-run home run to Logan Morrison in the first inning and produced a bunt single that led to one of the two errors the Braves used to erase their early deficit.

Johnson began the bottom of the third with a double and then scored from second base when Medlen's bunt drew an errant throw from third baseman Placido Polanco. The throw pulled Morrison off first base and led him to get the worst of a mini-collision with Medlen. Morrison landed on his hip and remained on the ground briefly before staying in the game.

Medlen admitted that he did not have his best stuff, as he allowed three earned runs and nine hits in six innings. But after allowing Morrison's first-inning home run, the only other damage he incurred came courtesy of Greg Dobbs' game-tying, pinch-hit single with two outs in the sixth inning.

"You're going to go out there and not have your best stuff more times than not, honestly," Medlen said. "It comes down to heart and relying on your teammates."

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