Braves' bats come alive to take series finale

Bethancourt collects three hits, scores twice and drives in two runs

Braves' bats come alive to take series finale

ATLANTA -- Following two days of offensive struggles, the 7-4 win the Braves manufactured over the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field felt especially good. Manufacturing was the key word.

"We moved the line up and down the lineup," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "Everybody contributed it seemed like, and we got a good pitching performance by [Ervin] Santana."

That they did all this with a manufactured lineup was even better for Atlanta.

During a game in which the Braves played without two of their biggest bats -- Justin Upton and Evan Gattis -- they got contributions from one of their youngest, Christian Bethancourt, and one of their oldest, Ryan Doumit.

Bethancourt, who turned 23 on Tuesday, filled in for Gattis, getting three hits, scoring two runs and driving in a pair of runs -- including the go-ahead run in the fifth. Doumit scored twice and was part of a pair of key rallies as the Braves salvaged the finale of the three-game series. The Braves moved to a half-game back in the Wild Card race, with the Brewers losing to the Cubs.

"I feel really good at the plate right now," said Bethancourt, who matched his career high with his three hits, all singles, after hitting .375 over his final 16 games with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves. "I just have that confidence. Nothing has changed. I've just been the same guy, same approach, same routine. I'm just patient at the plate."

Atlanta hitters were patient and put up quality at-bats all day. The Braves were actually outhit by the Phillies, 8-7, but took advantage of Phillies pitchers' wildness, drawing nine walks, two more than the combined total for the first two games. They struck out only five times, vs. 21 combined on Monday and Tuesday.

By putting the ball in play, the Braves seized an opportunity when Phillies second baseman Chase Utley couldn't handle Doumit's grounder leading off the second. That play kick-started a three-run rally. B.J. Upton supplied the power, blasting his 10th homer of the season to cap the second-inning outburst.

Gonzalez credited Doumit's ability to come in and get the job done as a starter for Justin Upton. Even though his line read 1-for-4, his grounder to Utley was originally ruled a hit, and both times Doumit got on base he scored.

"Doumit came in ... and gives you good at-bats," said Gonzalez "He gave us good at-bats."

Gonzalez felt like his team's approach was as good as it had been over the last couple of games.

"Today, you could say the quality of the at-bats was better because we got results," Gonzalez said. "I think the effort is there always. Sometimes you get hits, sometimes you don't."

B.J. Upton, whose two-run shot in the second gave him 10 home runs on the season -- a mark he didn't reach last year -- agreed.

"I think even against [Monday's starter Cole] Hamels, we put some AB's together," said the center fielder, who also drew a pair of walks. "We just didn't get the knocks to get the guys in. We've been battling. We've been putting together good AB's. That's all you can do."

Santana (14-7) went six innings, allowing four runs and seven hits to win for the fourth time in six starts. He struck out four and walked one, allowing a home run in an outing for only the third time in his last 10 starts.

Santana wasn't vintage, as he had only one perfect inning, but he made some key pitches in beating the Phils for the third time in four decisions in 2014.

"It was a little bit difficult, especially when we got the 12:00 game," Santana said in reference to the start time. "I just didn't try to do too much. I was just trying to keep the ball down for the most part."

In the fifth, with the bases loaded and one out, Santana retired Utley on a game-tying sac fly to left, then got Ryan Howard to fly to right.

Mario Hollands (2-2) took the loss for the Phillies.

Bethancourt played a central role in the three-run second inning, in which Atlanta broke its 25-inning scoreless drought and scored its first runs in the series. He also scored in the fourth and drove home the go-ahead run in the fifth. The outburst ruined the hometown professional debut of Phillies starter David Buchanan, a Peachtree City, Ga., native.

Bethancourt's single to right in the second inning scored Doumit to tie the game at 1. Bethancourt then scored on B.J. Upton's two-run homer.

In the fourth, Bethancourt led off the inning with a single and scored on a Heyward groundout to put Atlanta ahead. After the Phillies tied the game in the top of the fifth, Bethancourt's two-out single in the bottom half of the frame scored Freddie Freeman, who reached second with a double after an out call was overturned by video review.

The two-run and two-RBI day were career highs, and Bethancourt also recorded the first stolen base of his career in the fifth.

"To come in and step in in the middle of a pennant race and do the things he did today, shows a lot," said B.J. Upton.

The Braves plated two insurance runs in the sixth, when Freeman scored on a Tommy La Stella single and Doumit slid home on a wild pitch.

On Wednesday, it was the Braves' bullpen that dominated, as Chasen Shreve, David Carpenter and Craig Kimbrel slammed the door shut, allowing one hit over the final three innings.

It was a nice way for the Braves to go into an off-day.

"To come out and score as many runs as we did today, going into the off-day and heading on this long road trip, it's going to be really important," said Kimbrel, who earned his 42nd save. "It gives us a little bit of momentum. Hopefully we can keep this thing rolling."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.