Braves get to Felix, sweep Mariners
SEATTLE — Freddie Freeman knocked around Felix Hernandez for three hits and two RBIs, and the Atlanta Braves beat Seattle 5-3 on Wednesday to complete an impressive three-game sweep that included victories over the Mariners’ best starting pitchers.
The Braves won for the eighth time in 10 games and picked up their 25th road victory of the season. They handed losses to Hernandez, rookie star Michael Pineda and Erik Bedard during their rare trip to Seattle.
Freeman started a two-out rally in the fourth inning, punching a single into left against Hernandez (8-7) and scoring on Brooks Conrad’s grounder back up the middle. Freeman capped the Braves’ three-run fifth with a two-run single to right.
Derek Lowe (4-6) pitched six crisp innings for Atlanta, yielding one run and four hits to earn his first win since May 6 at Philadelphia. The right-hander was 0-3 with a 5.29 ERA in his previous nine starts.
Eric O’Flaherty followed Lowe with a perfect seventh, including Ichiro Suzuki swinging meekly at a third strike. Jonny Venters gave up a two-run homer to prized rookie Dustin Ackley with two outs in the eighth — the first extra-base hit by a lefty against Venters this season.
Craig Kimbrel then finished for his 23rd save in 28 chances, including all three games in the sweep.
Before Wednesday’s game, Seattle manager Eric Wedge talked about how it was a perfect setup having his ace on the mound with the Mariners needing a win to stop its recent slide.
Wedge wasn’t around to see Hernandez get knocked around for 10 hits, the fourth time in his last five starts the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner has allowed eight or more hits. Wedge was ejected by home plate umpire Paul Emmel in the second inning after he became upset when Jack Cust was called out on a low third strike.
Hernandez was cruising at that point, retiring 11 of the first 12 batters — including six strikeouts. But the Braves eventually got it going at the plate.
Freeman, Dan Uggla and Conrad had consecutive singles — none sharply hit, but all well placed — to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. Then Hernandez lost control in the fifth, throwing a pair of wild pitches that allowed Nate McLouth to score following a leadoff walk. Jordan Schafer singled and Jason Heyward also walked in the inning ahead of Freeman’s two-run single.
The Braves added another run in the seventh when Brian McCann continued his hot hitting with an RBI single.
Surprisingly, Hernandez remained in the game until he walked McLouth with two out in the eighth on his 127th pitch — his second-highest total of the season. Each of the 10 hits he allowed were singles.
Seattle’s scuffling offense continued to struggle. Lowe had allowed 13 earned runs in his previous starts but the Mariners only got to him for Josh Bard’s RBI single in the fifth.
Bard was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma earlier in the day when backup catcher Chris Gimenez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique.
Along with Bard, Seattle also selected C Jose Yepez from Tacoma and placed LHP Bedard on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left knee. Bedard lost Monday night’s series opener against the Braves. … Lowe had been receiving the second-lowest run support in the National League before Wednesday. … Atlanta’s Alex Gonzalez snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a single in the seventh inning.
© Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.