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Braves use five homers to beat Royals 6-3

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at 10:59 p.m.

— Well … Chris Getz broke his long homerless drought Tuesday night, but the Atlanta Braves went deep five times in a 6-3 victory over the Royals at Turner Field.

Kelvin Herrera surrendered three of those homers in a nightmarish eighth inning after inheriting a tie game from Jeremy Guthrie.

And say this: none were cheap.

Jason Heyward and Justin Upton hit successive one-out bombs before Dan Uggla capped the deluge with a two-out blast. Herrera (1-1) had not allowed a run in six previous appearances.

It was so joltingly unexpected that Herrera and the Royals were convinced afterward that he must have been tipping his pitches.

“They got good contact,” Herrera said. “That happens sometimes. But that, what happened (tonight), that’s never happened. Never. Not even in rookie league. Never.

“I think I was tipping because I was throwing hard.”

Whoa, but this one got away in a hurry.

The Braves added another run in the eighth on Chris Johnson’s two-out RBI single against Aaron Crow, who replaced Herrera after a walk to Juan Francisco, who hit two homers earlier in the game.

It was a stunning upheaval to what had been a tight pitchers’ duel between Guthrie and Atlanta starter Kris Medlen.

“Both starting pitchers were tremendous,” manager Ned Yost said. “Medlen and Guthrie were hitting spots and keeping the ball down. Changing speeds. It was a great game for 7 1/2 innings.

Guthrie had thrown only 77 pitches when he carried a 2-1 lead into the seventh after running the bases in the top of the inning. He started the inning by retiring Uggla on a liner to third.

But Francisco followed with his second homer of the game — and the game was tied. Francisco jumped an 0-1 fastball and drove it over the center-field wall.

It was just the third hit surrendered by Guthrie, but it was also also the fifth homer he’d yielded this season in, at that point, 19 innings.

“Francisco had a great game,” Guthrie said. “He took two really good swings and kind of got their team back into it.”

Andrelton Simmons then pulled a two-out single through the right side, which prompted the Braves to use Blake DeWitt as a pinch-hitter for Medlen.

DeWitt looped a fly into short right-center field that eluded Lorenzo Cain’s charge from center, but right fielder Jeff Francoeur grabbed the ball and threw a laser to the plate that easily nailed Simmons.

It was a temporary reprieve.

After Eric O’Flaherty (3-0) worked around Cain’s two-out single in the top of the eighth, the Royals went to their bullpen for Herrera. That meant both starters settled for tough no-decisions after seven strong innings.

Guthrie gave up two runs and five hits while striking out six and walking one; Medlen yielded two runs (one earned) and six hits while striking out five and walking none.

Herrera started the inning by retiring B.J. Upton on a grounder to third, but Heyward sliced a 98-mph fastball deep over the left-field wall. Upton followed by crushing a changeup.

Upton’s homer -- he seemed to be waiting on the 0-1 pitch — is what convinced the Royals that Herrera must be tipping. When Uggla turned around an 0-2 inside fastball...the Royals had little doubt.

“They say I was doing different little movements with my breaking ball and my fastball,” Herrera said. “But that’s no excuse. They just got me today. If I was (tipping pitches), I’m going to fix it.”

The Braves, 12-1, have now 10 in a row. The called on Luis Avilan to close out the victory in a non-save situation, but he collapsed at the mound while poised to delivered a 2-2 pitch to pinch-hitter Billy Butler.

Avilan grabbed his left hamstring as he tumbled to the ground and needed to be assisted from the field. Closer Craig Kimbrel gave up an RBI single to Alex Gordon before ending the game in what was still a non-save situation.

The Royals fell to 7-6 after losing for the third time in four games. The two-game series concludes Wednesday before the Royals continue their three-city trip with a weekend visit to grief-stricken Boston.

Two telling season-long stats: The Braves are out-homering opponents 25-7; the Royals are getting out-homered 18-5.

“I live here (in the off-season),” Francoeur said, “and I know when they put this team together, they put them together to strike out and hit home runs. Tonight, they were able to get five of them.”

Guthrie retired the first five Braves before Francisco hooked a 1-0 changeup over the right-field wall for his first homer and a 1-0 lead.

The Royals pulled even on Getz’s homer. It came on an 0-1 fastball from Medlen while leading off the third inning — and it was a no-doubt drive to right field.

The homer broke a streak of 954 at-bats without a homer, which dated to July 19, 2009 while he was playing for the White Sox. Ironically, that one came against Guthrie, then pitching for Baltimore.

Getz’s homer also broke two Royals records: most plate appearances (925) and at-bats (829) before hitting his first homer. And it also came after the Braves posted those numbers on the scoreboard.

“It’s too bad that it took so long,” he said, “and it’s too bad that we lost. I mean, I saw it on the board, how long it’s been, and I certainly wasn’t happy about it. Obviously, it’s warranted considering it’s taken that long.

“I didn’t swing for it, but I wasn’t happy. It definitely added to the satisfaction.”

The Royals grabbed the lead after Francisco threw wildly on Salvy Perez’s one-out grounder to third in the fourth inning. Perez moved to second on Mike Moustakas’s single before Francoeur lined an RBI single into center.

That lead lasted until the Braves started playing long ball.

“We knew coming in they have a lot of power,” Yost said, “and they put it on display tonight with five homers … Kelvin has been almost unhittable all year long.”

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