After shaky start, Braves sail to ninth win in a row

Simmons amends for two errors by plating four to back Harang's gem

After shaky start, Braves sail to ninth win in a row

ATLANTA -- There was something rare about the two errors Andrelton Simmons committed during the ugly first inning that unfolded on Saturday afternoon at Turner Field. But as the next couple of hours unfolded, everything seemed to be business as usual for the red-hot Braves.

After surrendering three runs before they took their first swing, the Braves began chipping away at their early deficit and eventually cruised to a 10-4 win over the D-backs. Aaron Harang bounced back from the mistake-filled first inning and Simmons made amends as he keyed the decisive five-run fourth inning with a two-run double.

"We had the rough first inning, but nobody panicked," Harang said. "Our confidence is real high right now and everybody is feeling good about how we're swinging the bats and playing defense. We knew guys were comfortable and that we were going to stay right in it."

This celebratory conclusion proved to be quite familiar to the Braves, who have won nine straight and 11 of their past 12 games. They have a 1 1/2-game division lead over the Nationals, who have managed to lose ground while losing just four of their past 12 games.

Harang looked like he might be set for a short outing when he surrendered hits to three of the first four batters he faced. But the veteran right-hander bounced back from the three-run first and allowed just one more run while completing a season-high eight innings. He threw 30 of his 111 pitches in the first inning.

"Aaron was outstanding," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We got him behind the eight ball. That's the first time we had an inning like that in a long, long time."

It looked like this might be an afternoon to forget for Simmons when an errant throw to the plate and errant flip on an attempted double play turn left him with two errors in the first inning. This certainly was unfamiliar territory for the Gold Glove shortstop, who had committed two errors in just two of his previous 287 games. But at the end of the day, there was more reason to focus on the fact that he had also matched a career best by driving in four runs.

"I told him, 'If you stay around this game long enough, it won't be the last time you make two errors in one inning,'" Gonzalez said. "It just happens. But how you bounce back from those is what is important. I thought he bounced back terrifically. He made some great plays defensively and also swung the bat."

B.J. Upton fueled the Braves' comeback when he opened the bottom of the first inning with a triple that gave him a career-best 11-game hitting streak. Simmons followed with an RBI single that marked the start of the problems experienced by Mike Bolsinger, who allowed seven runs (five earned) and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

"The [RBIs] feel good, but I don't want to give up runs and make him throw more pitches," Simmons said. "We ended up winning anyways. So, it's good."

Exactly one week after making his Major League debut, Christian Bethancourt paced the Braves' offense by producing his first three-hit game. His fourth-inning single helped set the stage for Simmons, who drilled his go-ahead two-run double to the left-center-field gap. Freddie Freeman then followed with what stands as the latest of the three triples he has hit at Turner Field since last hitting a home run in front of the home crowd.

Justin Upton's opposite-field two-run shot in the sixth inning further damaged his former club and also accounted for the Braves' first home run in a span of 47 innings -- dating back to the second game of the June 28 doubleheader in Philadelphia.

"They got a couple runs early, but [Harang] kept them right there and he gave us a chance to come back in the game," Gonzalez said.

Harang might have only allowed one run in the first inning had Simmons not uncorked an errant throw that allowed Paul Goldschmidt to advance from second to third base on his RBI double in the first. Two batters later, Simmons made an errant scoop and flip to second base while attempting to turn a double play.

But the veteran Harang, who has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 13 of 18 starts, faced the minimum over the next three innings and was only further damaged when Ender Inciarte began the fifth with his first career home run.

"When you get a team that is aggressive and he doesn't have to throw the ball over the plate, you can get those kinds of outings out of him," Gonzalez said. "He was really efficient. That's what's nice about having a nice veteran on the mound. He didn't spook."

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