PHOENIX – After building a winning streak by pounding teams into submission, the surging Braves got back to winning in more traditional fashion Saturday night, with good pitching and just enough timely hits.
Tommy Hanson pitched seven strong innings and Dan Uggla hit a long, tie-breaking homer in a 3-2 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the 10th win in 11 games.
Braves pitchers retired the last 19 batters they faced, 13 by Hanson and three each by relievers Jonny Venters and closer Craig Kimbrel, who struck out everybody in the eighth and ninth innings.
“At the end of the year I think we’re going to be known for our pitching,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves led the majors in scoring before Saturday. “That’s what has been the constant here in the Atlanta Braves organization. I think at the end of the year that’s what we’re going to be known for.”
Uggla didn’t think his third-inning homer for a 3-2 lead would be the last run either team scored.
“I was hoping we were going to put more runs up, but it ended up being enough for Tommy and Jonny and Craig,” he said. “They picked us up tonight.”
The Braves have their second five-game winning streak of the young season and their fourth consecutive series win since being swept by the Mets to start the season.
After racking up 54 hits and 42 runs in their previous four wins, they got it done Saturday with a mere six hits. It was only their third win decided by fewer than three runs and their second one-run win.
“It was big because we’ve been scoring a bunch of runs, and today we needed to rely on our pitching,” catcher Brian McCann said. “Tommy stepped up in a huge way, Jonny came in and made all his pitches, then Craig came in and shut the door.
“It was a great team win. I can’t say enough about the good things Tommy did today.”
Hanson (2-2) allowed five hits and two runs in seven innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts. It was the third consecutive quality start for the Braves, who’ll go for a four-game series sweep Sunday afternoon behind rookie Randall Delgado.
“There were a lot of runs early, then me and [Arizona starter] Joe [Saunders] shut it down, got comfortable and started making better pitches,” said Hanson, who allowed a single run in each of the first two innings, while Saunders gave up one run in each of the first three.
“I felt good. The balls were a little dry, so once I got a little sweat going and got a little better grip on my pitches, I settled in a little better and starting making some more quality pitches.”
Chipper Jones drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in the Braves’ first run in the first inning, Martin Prado had an RBI single in the second, and Uggla hit a first-pitch homer to left field with one out in the third inning to put the Braves ahead 3-2.
Uggla is only hitting .241 with two home runs, but has hit both homers in the past four days.
“It was just a matter of time before I could get the first one, then hopefully they start rolling in after that,” said Uggla, who hit at least 31 homers for the past five seasons, including a career-high 36 in 2011.
Of Saturday’s homer he said, “It was big. I’ve just been battling, working every day, trying to make sure I can get my timing and be as comfortable as I can. It’s been going OK.”
Hanson gave up a run on two hits in the first inning and a leadoff homer by Jason Kubel in the second. But soon after Uggla’s blast gave the Braves their third lead in as many innings, he settled in. He struck out Kubel with two on to end the third, beginning a stretch of 13 consecutive batters retired by Hanson.
The big redhead gave up four runs in seven innings of his last start Monday against the Mets, the Braves’ only loss in 11 games.
“I think we had a good game plan coming in here,” and we’ve been doing a good job with going out there and executing that,” Hanson said. “The last couple of games now I’ve felt good with my breaking pitches, and the last two starts my fastball command has been a lot better.”
Venters struck out the side in the eighth inning and Kimbrel did the same in the ninth to convert his fifth save and first since April 14.
“When we have the lead going in the later part of the game, we feel that game’s won,” McCann said. “And that’s a pretty cool feeling to have.”
Kimbrel gave up a run in the ninth inning of Friday’s 9-1 win, when the closer pitched only because he had been idle for five days and needed the work.
“It felt good coming out of the game giving the ball to Jonny and Craig,” Hanson said. “You saw how good they were tonight, and they’re always that good. So it’s comfortable, from my standpoint and the team’s standpoint, to know they’re going to go out and get the job done.”