After a brutal 10-game road trip that saw the Atlanta Braves go 4-6 against the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks, they returned home to Turner Field and finally got back on track with an 8-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The main talking point going into Friday night was the return of Jason Heyward, but by the time Craig Kimbrel closed the game out in the top of the ninth inning with his 12th save of the season, all everyone wanted to talk about was the grand slam delivered by Justin Upton in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Upton's 14th home run of the season came at a crucial point in the game, as the Braves were down by two runs and starting pitcher Paul Maholm was reaching the end of his start after throwing 95 pitches.
After Upton's shot to left field scored Jordan Schafer, Andrelton Simmons and Heyward, the Braves bullpen got down to business.
The trio of Luis Avilan, Eric O'Flaherty and Kimbrel conceded just two hits, one of which was a home run by Scott Van Slyke in the eighth off of O'Flaherty, as they preserved Maholm's fifth win of the season.
The performance of Avilan was the most important to Braves fans, especially after the news of Jonny Venters' second Tommy John surgery (via Atlanta Journal-Constitution) was delivered yesterday. Avilan will be one of the many Braves relievers who will be asked to fill in for Venters and bridge the gap to O'Flaherty and Kimbrel for the rest of the season.
As for how the returning Heyward performed in first game back, the right fielder went 2-for-4 at the plate, and he delivered an important insurance run in the seventh inning as he brought home Simmons on a RBI single.
With Heyward's activation from the disabled list on Friday, manager Fredi Gonzalez was forced to make a roster move, and he did so by placing right-hander Jordan Walden on the disabled list (via ESPN.com).
By placing Walden on the DL, Gonzalez has given himself more time to demote or release a position player, which should come before the Braves hit the road in a week's time to play the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.
On Saturday, Mike Minor will take the mound for the Braves against Matt Magill of the Dodgers in the second game of a three-game set in Atlanta.
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