Santana, Upton lead Braves to win in matinee

La Stella drives in three with parents in attendance

Santana, Upton lead Braves to win in matinee

PHILADELPHIA -- With Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader looming a couple of hours away, Ervin Santana and the offense put the Braves in perfect position for the nightcap.

The Braves plated five insurance runs in the eighth, and Santana threw 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball, as Atlanta took advantage of Philadelphia's miscues in its 10-3 victory at Citizens Bank Park in the matinee.

With a seven-run lead, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was able to preserve his two top arms in the bullpen, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel, for Saturday's second game.

"We were looking for that kind of outing [from Santana] to be able to save the bullpen," Gonzalez said.

"You're thinking about playing the next game."

The approach Atlanta's hitters took at the plate was indicative of that. The Braves worked counts, carefully picked situations in which to be aggressive and drew eight walks off Phillies pitchers. Four of those free passes translated into runs for the Braves.

"A lot of them scored. That's something we're always preaching -- patience at the plate -- and we did that today," Gonzalez said.

The Phillies brought home a run in the first after Ryan Howard drove in Tony Gwynn Jr., and again in the second when Koyie Hill set the table with a one-out double. Opposing pitcher Roberto Hernandez then grounded a ball to right field for his second career hit and first career RBI.

But after getting himself into and out of hot water in the first two frames, Santana would settle down and blank the Phils until his exit in the seventh.

"He kept the ball down pretty much the whole game and he really made pitches," second baseman Tommy La Stella said. "He really kept those guys off balance -- and that's a dangerous lineup. If they start rolling, they can really put some runs up in a hurry, so he did a great job."

The Braves would overcome the early deficit, and then some.

In the fourth, Ryan Howard giftwrapped the tying runs for the Braves. After Andrelton Simmons singled with one out, Freddie Freeman hit a hard bouncer down to Howard that went through the first baseman's wickets and put runners on second and third.

On the next play, Howard committed another defensive miscue. Justin Upton grounded a ball to Howard, which the first baseman couldn't handle.

Simmons came home to get the Braves on the scoreboard. Jason Heyward followed by grounding out to Howard to drive in Freeman for Atlanta's second unearned run of the inning to tie the game at 2.

"We only got two runs out of those errors, but it got us back in the game," Gonzalez said. "You have to take advantage of those. Same thing as walks or miscues. You give opportunities to good baseball teams, they're going to get you."

The Braves snapped the tie in the sixth inning on Upton's two-run double that hit off the top of the wall, just to the right of the 387-ft. marker in center field.

In the eighth inning, the floodgates opened for Atlanta. After Simmons popped out to lead off the inning, the next three Braves reached -- loading the bases for Chris Johnson. Johnson singled to drive in Freeman, before La Stella came to the plate.

La Stella, who entered the at-bat 2-for-30 on the current road trip, connected on a 91-mph fastball by Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo.

With his mother and father in attendance, 25-year-old from Westwood, N.J., promptly made that statistic a distant memory, as he sent a frozen rope to right field for a bases-clearing triple.

"That was nice. Obviously, a big time in the game for us to give ourselves insurance runs," said La Stella. "Put a good swing on the ball earlier in the game and it got caught out in left field. So it was good to put another one on and have something fall for me."

Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.