Freddie Freeman likes how the Atlanta Braves are positioned with the first half of the season complete.
”It’s nice to have a winning record at the break [url=http://www.bearscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-kyle-long-jersey]Kyle Long Jersey[/url] ,” the All-Star first baseman said. ”It’s been a few years. This is right where we need to be. Get some rest and hope to come out with a bang.”
Julio Teheran pitched six-plus scoreless innings, and the Braves used a four-run third inning to beat Patrick Corbin and the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-1 on Sunday.
It was a needed confidence boost before the All-Star break for Atlanta, which had lost eight of 10 and dropped to second in the NL East after leading the division for nearly six weeks. Atlanta goes into the break one-half game behind the Philadelphia Phillies.
”We obviously haven’t playing the way we wanted to the last couple of weeks, so to end on a good note for the first half – it was great,” Freeman said.
Teheran (7-6) allowed four hits and three walks, striking out six, before Jesse Biddle replaced him with one out in the seventh and stranded two runners.
Arizona has lost 10 of 16. Still, the Diamondbacks headed home with their 17th series win with a minimum of three games, tied for the most before the All-Star break in club history. They also matched last year’s franchise record with 53 wins at the season’s halfway mark.
Corbin (6-4) extended his winless streak to seven starts after he gave up six hits, four runs and one walk in six innings. The left-hander struck out three [url=http://www.billscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-o.-j.-simpson-jersey]O. J. Simpson Jersey[/url] , a season low.
The Braves went ahead 4-0 in the third. Johan Camargo singled and scored from first on Dansby Swanson’s double down the third-base line. Swanson advanced to third on Teheran’s bunt and scored on Ozzie Albies‘ infield single.
Albies advanced to third on his single when third baseman Jake Lamb threw errantly to first. Albies then scored on Freeman’s double, and Freeman scored on Nick Markakis‘ bloop single.
”They had a couple of hits there, and I left a couple of balls up to Freeman and Markakis – I thought I made a good pitch inside that just fell in – and we had the tough roller there,” Corbin said. ”That was the only inning I really had to work.”
Preston Tucker’s pinch-hit homer in the seventh off Randall Delgado put the Braves up 5-0. John Jay homered off Dan Winkler in the eighth to make it 5-1.
Teheran pitched around a leadoff double by Daniel Descalso in the third and a leadoff single by Paul Goldschmidt in the fourth. He got an assist in the third when catcher Kurt Suzuki fielded Corbin’s bunt in the batter’s box and threw out Descaslo at third to begin a double play.
Teheran gave up a leadoff single to A.J. Pollock in the seventh, but quickly picked him off. His day ended after he gave up a double to Lamb and issued a walk.
”I know the second half is going to be hard for us,” Teheran said. ”We’re just trying to get our minds ready. I’m trying to get everything together so I can give a little more to the team.”
Corbin began the day 4-0 with a 0.98 ERA in five career starts and two relief appearances against Atlanta, but he couldn’t overcome the 31-pitch fourth.
The Braves led the NL in runs scored for most of the season before dropping to fourth in the last two weeks. They had hit .188 with runners in scoring position over the previous 10 games.
Freeman entered with one hit in 13 career appearances against Corbin, but won his battle in the fourth. He is hitting .350 in 120 at-bats against left-handers, the second-best average in the majors by a left-handed batter.
Diamondbacks: Return from the All-Star break Friday to begin a three-game home series against Colorado.
Braves: Start a three-game series at Washington on Friday.
As the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils shifts to the Prudential Center for Game 3 Monday night, one team espouses change while the other is quite fine with the status quo.
It is not hard to determine which team is which after the Lightning held serve on home ice [url=http://www.texanscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-corey-moore-jersey]Corey Moore Jersey[/url] , winning the first two games. Now it’s up to the Devils to change the narrative as the series shifts to Newark, but that may be easier said than done.
The Lightning took Game 1 by a 5-2 score and then ran out to a four-goal lead in the second game on Saturday before finishing the Devils off 5-3. Over 120 minutes of playoff hockey, the Lightning have not trailed for a single second.
“You approach every game at a time, and we’re just focused on the next one right now,” said the Lightning’s Tyler Johnson, who scored a goal in each of the first two games. “We’re not focused on what we did the first two games. It’s what we’re going to do in the next one.”
That business-like approach is echoed throughout the experienced Lightning dressing room. Not only did this team finish first in the Eastern Conference this season, but the roster swells with players that played in recent Stanley Cup and conference finals games.
That experience showed in the first two games as the Lightning handled momentum swings in a smoother fashion that far-less experienced Devils. And it could be a big advantage as the Lightning look to put a stranglehold on the series with a win Monday night.
“Just because you won the first two games at home, that’s not a paved path saying you’re going to win Game 3,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “The best we played (Saturday), we’re going to go five percent better to win on the road.”
While the Devils had surges in the opening two games in Tampa [url=http://www.texanscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-greg-mancz-jersey]Greg Mancz Jersey[/url] , there is much room for improvement up and down their lineup. In fact, the lineup deployed by Devils coach John Hynes in the first two games, will be shaken up Monday night.
Hynes told reporters on a conference call Sunday that there will be changes made, though he declined to specify which players might be in or out.
“There are some guys who just haven’t performed well enough to warrant staying in the lineup,” explained Hynes. “We’re a team, we need to play as a group. We can’t have passengers. We can’t have guys not necessarily playing as hard as they need to in the competitive areas of the game.”
Veterans Ben Lovejoy and Michael Grabner might be in danger of watching from the press box in Game 3. Both have struggled, and Grabner logged only 8:56 worth of ice time on Saturday.
Adding some intrigue to who may, or may not, play in Game 3 is that the Devils signed 2016 third-round pick Joey Anderson to an entry-level contract on Sunday. He will skate with the team Monday after recently helping the University of Minnesota-Duluth win the NCAA Championship.
Another area of question is in goal. Keith Kinkaid went 7-0-1 down the stretch between the pipes, helping the Devils secure their first playoff berth in six years [url=http://www.texanscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-kendall-lamm-jersey]Kendall Lamm Jersey[/url] , after Cory Schneider was sidelined with a hip injury in January and then failed to win any of his starts upon his return more than a month later.
However, Kinkaid was blitzed by the high-powered Lightning offense in the first two games of this series and was pulled in favor of Schneider after allowing five goals on 15 shots in only 33:12 on Saturday.
Hynes said Sunday he decided on his starting goalie for Game 3 but was not ready to publicly divulge his choice.
“I feel confident in both goalies,” Devils alternate captain Taylor Hall told reporters Sunday. “That’s the least of our worries. Keith down the stretch was great and Cory’s had his times this year, as well.”
No matter who starts in goal, the Devils need to tighten up their overall defensive game and find ways to slow down the potent Lightning power play, which converted on three of its four opportunities in Games 1 and 2.
Despite the daunting task ahead of his team, Hall is excited for Monday night.
“It’s going to be really fun to have our fans behind us,” said Hall, who has one goal and one assist in the series. “Home ice is a huge advantage and using the fans can give is the push we need for Game 3.”
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