The Atlanta Braves won't be short-handed for their pursuit of the NL's best record.
With reserve outfielder Reed Johnson appealing his suspension after a brawl in the Braves' most recent game, Atlanta is hoping to get another strong start from David Hale on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Phillies .
After a 4-0 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday, Atlanta (93-65) is now one-half game behind St. Louis in the race to earn home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. What happened during the first inning of that defeat could have played a big part in that chase.
The Brewers' Carlos Gomez got into a verbal argument with pitcher Paul Maholm and first baseman Freddie Freeman after hitting his 23rd homer, and catcher Brian McCann kept him from touching the plate when he confronted him between third and home. That resulted in a benches-clearing brawl that led to ejections for Freeman, Gomez and Braves backup catcher Gerald Laird .
After the game, Gomez said he was upset because Maholm hit him in the leg with a fastball in a 7-4 loss June 23.
"If you have a beef with the pitcher, have a beef with the pitcher," Freeman said. "Don't make us get involved. That's us. We're going to back up our pitcher. I'm fine with how everybody handled it."
Gomez was tossed for shoving Johnson, who received a one-game ban Thursday. However, the Braves caught a break with no other players getting suspended for the opener of this four-game series against Philadelphia (72-86).
Being without key players may not have hurt the Braves anyway considering how impressive Hale was in his major league debut.
While starting in place of an ailing Maholm, the 25-year-old Hale set a franchise record with nine strikeouts in his first game Sept. 13 against San Diego. The right-hander also pitched five scoreless innings, but the Padres denied him a win by rallying for a 4-3 victory.
"David was outstanding," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the team's website. "We couldn't ask any more, really. Couldn't have been a better script. He was outstanding."
Hale (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will next face a Phillies team that's batted .215 and scored 18 runs while dropping six of seven. Philadelphia had 10 hits Wednesday in Miami but lost 3-2.
Hale will also pitch opposite a struggling Tyler Cloyd (2-6, 5.40). The right-hander is 0-3 with an 11.77 ERA in three starts since being recalled from the minors Sept. 3.
Cloyd, who has never faced Atlanta, allowed one run in his first five innings against the New York Mets on Saturday but didn't make it out of the sixth. He was charged with all four runs in that frame in a rain-shortened 5-4 loss.
"I wish I could figure it out," he said. "I'll keep continuing to work on everything I need to work on."
The Braves have won four of their six home games against the Phillies this season, but they endured a three-game sweep in Philadelphia during the most recent matchup Sept. 6-8.
|September 23, 2013||Roy Halladay||Day-to-Day||Right arm fatigue|
|September 14, 2013||Kyle Kendrick||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 30, 2013||Domonic Brown||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right Achilles|
|August 28, 2013||Cody Asche||Day-to-Day||Strained left hamstring|
|August 26, 2013||Casper Wells||15-Day DL||Vision complications|
|August 17, 2013||Michael Young||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore left ankle|
|September 11, 2013||Paul Maholm||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|September 10, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right knee|
|August 29, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Left hand injury|
|August 22, 2013||Jason Heyward||15-Day DL||Fractured right jaw|
|August 22, 2013||Jason Heyward||15-Day DL||Fractured right jaw|
|August 21, 2013||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Braves found the solution for their September slump - Phillies rookie Tyler Cloyd .
Jason Heyward 's leadoff home run sparked a five-run first inning and the Braves shook off what has been a chilly September at the plate with a 7-1 win over the Phillies on Thursday night.
"It is good to get hits," said Heyward, who had a career-high five, including three doubles. "Good to get on base and get the game going early. We are still playing for something."
The win pulled the Braves even with the idle Cardinals at 94-65 for the best record in the National League with three games to play. The Braves won the season-series against the Cardinals and would win the NL's No. 1 seed if the teams finish tied.
"It is a big spot," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We'll try to win tomorrow and keep guys healthy at the same time."
Braves catcher Bryan McCann left the game in the second inning with an adductor strain. After the game, Gonzalez said he thinks McCann will be OK and wanted to avoid having something small get worse.
After scoring just three runs in a three-game series loss to the Brewers, the Braves entered Thursday averaging 3.3 runs per game in September. They surpassed that in just six batters against the Phillies when Chris Johnson doubled home Evan Gattis to give the Braves a 4-0 lead in the first.
Braves rookie David Hale (1-0) picked up his first win in his second career start, going six innings while giving up one run and striking out five. The right-hander allowed six base runners in the first three innings, but settled down after that and cruised to the win. In two starts since getting called up from Triple-A, Hale has given up one run in 11 innings.
"It is amazing, especially to (get my first win) at home," said Hale, who grew up in nearby Marietta. "I was a little more relaxed, but still nervous. I just kept the ball down and it turned out all right."
Cloyd (2-7) had been struggling, surrendering 17 runs in 13 innings in his previous three September starts, and the right-hander did not see a turnaround against the Braves. He gave up seven runs on eight hits and did not retire any of the first four batters in the second inning before being pulled.
"It was just bad. I wasn't executing any pitches and they were hitting the ball hard," Cloyd said. "I wouldn't say nothing was working, but everything was where they could hit it."
The decisive first began with Heyward's home run on Cloyd's first pitch of the night. Elliot Johnson followed with a single, and Freddie Freeman doubled him home. Gattis then hit an RBI single, and scored on Chris Johnson 's double. Jordan Schafer brought in the final run of the frame with an RBI single.
Gattis ended Cloyd's night with a two-run double in the second that scored Heyward and Elliot Johnson .
"Cloyd had a hard time with his first-pitch strikes and also had trouble with two strikes," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "They were still able to barrel balls up pretty good and before you know it, it was 7-0."
Jimmy Rollins went 3 for 4 for the Phillies, who have lost seven of eight.
NOTES: Injured Braves starter Brandon Beachy had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow on Thursday. Gonzalez said Beachy should be ready to return by the first couple of weeks of spring training. ... Gonzalez is undecided on his fourth starter for the upcoming NLDS. He is choosing between Freddy Garcia and Paul Malhom. Gonzalez thought both pitchers pitched well this week and said it will be a tough decision. ... Injured Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was at Turner Field, re-joining the team from Clearwater, Fla., where he had been rehabbing his left knee. Howard said it was important to him to finish the season with his teammates. "I just wanted to watch and cheer these guys on the rest of the way and hopefully try to end things on a good note and head into 2014 on a high." ... The Braves have matched their 94 wins from 2012, when they earned a wild card spot.