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National League Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, July 4 (All times eastern)
Arizona Diamondbacks (36-51) at Atlanta Braves (47-38), 7:35 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Arizona - Josh Collmenter (7-4, 3.74) Atlanta - Ervin Santana (6-5, 4.05)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The surging Atlanta Braves eye up an eighth consecutive victory Friday night when they begin a three-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Turner Field.
Despite losing starting pitcher Gavin Floyd to season-ending elbow surgery along with slugger Evan Gattis to a back injury, Atlanta has picked up steam of late with wins in 11 of its last 14 games overall. The Braves entered Friday with a half-game lead in the NL East over the Washington Nationals, who have won five straight.
"There's been a lot of different components for us to be winning, whether it's the bullpen one day or starting pitchers going deep in games, whether it's situational hitting or baserunning," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Wednesday. "We're winning in different ways, I guess is a better way to describe it. We're not relying on the home run."
On Wednesday, Atlanta notched a 3-1 win over the New York Mets behind starter Julio Teheran, who tossed seven innings of one-run ball. He allowed only four hits while striking out five to lower hit ERA to 2.29. Chris Johnson provided an early spark with a three-run double with two outs in the first inning.
B.J. Upton has struggled mightily at the plate since joining the Braves at the beginning of last season. However, he has a nine-game hitting streak since being inserted into the leadoff spot. The rest of the lineup has seemingly followed suit during the winning streak. All eight runs the team has scored over the last two games came with two outs.
The Braves were idle Thursday, which was only their second day off since June 6.
Meanwhile, Arizona is looking to build on Thursday's 10-2 triumph at Pittsburgh after dropping the first two games of that series. The game took a dramatic turn after Ender Inciarte broke up Vance Worley's no-hitter with an RBI single to spark a three-run sixth inning. The D'backs eventually tacked on seven more runs in the ninth to win handily.
Arizona now turns to Josh Collmenter, who will try to become only the second pitcher in franchise history to win three games in 10 days, joining Randy Johnson (2001 World Series). Collmenter earned a victory when he was called in to pitch the 14th inning of an eventual 9-8 win over Cleveland on June 24. Four days later, he was back in the rotation against San Diego and limited the Padres to one earned run in 5 1/3 innings.
"To be able to snake a win in that extra-inning game, that's just something that happens," Collmenter said. "You might go a couple of weeks, or a month without getting a win and then you might pick up a few in a row. This game is kind of goofy like that."
Taking the mound for Atlanta will be Ervin Santana, who snapped a personal three-game slide in his last start against Philadelphia. The right-hander went 6 2/3 innings -- his sixth straight start that lasted at least six frames -- and gave up two earned runs on seven hits. He struck out five and walked only one batter.
Santana said the team very much welcomed Thursday's off day.
"It's huge for us because we come in from a doubleheader and then the next day a day game," Santana said on Wednesday. "And we got a good series against the Phillies and now we got good games yesterday and the day before.
"So it's good for us. Just come in today fresh and just keep playing hard.
The D-backs have lost nine of their last 10 in Atlanta.
07/04 10:35:41 ET
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