Five-run fifth gives Braves eighth straight win

Five-run fifth gives Braves eighth straight win

Five-run fifth gives Braves eighth straight win

ATLANTA -- Instead of trying to provide a reason for the sudden offensive eruptions that have carried his club throughout this week, manager Fredi Gonzalez is content to simply enjoy the results.

Sticking with the same quick-strike formula that keyed the assault against the Rockies' pitching staff earlier this week, the Braves used back-to-back home runs by Brian McCann and Chris Johnson to construct the five-run fifth inning that carried them to Friday night's 6-4 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

"We have confidence in our offense and know that we can have a big inning at any time," Johnson said. "We've got a lot of good hitters in our lineup."

After waiting through four months for this kind of offense to materialize, the Braves have displayed the depth of their potent lineup while scoring at least five runs in an inning during each of their past five games. The 46 runs they have totaled during this five-game stretch are one more than they had compiled in the 11 games immediately preceding this surge.

"Maybe the right guys are coming in the right situations," Gonzalez said. "But to sit here and give you some kind of explanation and sound halfway smart is not real smart on my part."

Whatever the case, Gonzalez has been pushing all the right buttons, and the Braves have won their past eight games and gained an 11 1/2-game lead over the second-place Nationals in the National League East. With 10 losses in their past 11 games, the Phillies have fallen into a third-place tie with the Mets, 14 1/2 games behind Atlanta.

"I think this is what everybody envisioned our offense being like," said Kris Medlen, whose victorious six-inning start was primarily marred by the three solo home runs he surrendered.

With his homer in the fifth inning and double in the seventh, third baseman Johnson set an Atlanta record by recording his eighth consecutive multihit game, and he has raised his batting average from .326 to a NL-leading .347 during this stretch.

"I'm trying not to think about it, really," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to keep my same approach every day."

Given what Atlanta did to Colorado earlier this week, this was not necessarily an opportune occasion for Phillies starter Ethan Martin to make his Major League debut. The 23-year-old native of Athens, Ga., grew up a Braves fan, and his excitement level was on display early, as he routinely lit up the radar gun with fastballs that exceeded 95 mph.

"I just tried to slow it down as much as I could," Martin said. "But first time up and being in front of all the fans, coming out, especially out of the dugout to warm up, it's like wow. The fact they were the team I grew up watching just kind of added [to it]."

Jason Heyward got the Braves rolling with an RBI single in the third inning, then sparked the decisive fifth inning by scoring when Justin Upton's single to center gave him a season-best seven-game hitting streak. Two batters later, McCann tied the score with a two-run shot to right field.

Martin simply became the latest Philadelphia pitcher to fall victim to McCann, who has hit seven home runs in his past 17 games against the Phillies.

Before McCann was even settled back in the dugout, Johnson drilled Martin's next pitch off the green cement wall in center field. The no-doubt line-drive shot proved to be the decisive blow for the Braves, who saw Joey Terdoslavich cap the fifth inning with a double off Luis Garcia that scored Dan Uggla from first base.

"We were trying to be patient the first time around, trying to get [Martin] to throw his fastball," Gonzalez said. "But he was pretty darn good the first couple of innings. The second time around the lineup, I think, we had some better looks at him. But that young man is going to be successful, because he has four quality Major League pitches he can throw for a strike."

Medlen walked away from this start with a greater sense that he has distanced himself from the rough stretch he experienced just before the All-Star break. The first run he surrendered came when Darin Ruf concluded a 10-pitch at-bat by drilling a fastball over the left-field wall. Delmon Young hit the next pitch -- another fastball -- over the wall in right-center.

It looked as though Medlen might be in danger when the Phillies scored two more runs against him in the sixth. Chase Utley got things started with a solo homer to center. Ruf then walked ahead of a Young double that put runners at second and third and set the stage for Cody Asche to drive in a run with a groundout.

With the potential tying run at the plate, Medlen ended his outing by striking out John Mayberry Jr. His ability to retire the final two batters he faced in a pressure situation caught Gonzalez's attention.

"I thought the last two hitters he faced were big for his confidence," Gonzalez said. "I think those two outs will carry over to his next start."

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