1. The spring of Oso Blanco
April 3: Braves 9, Phillies 2
What happened: Spring training non-roster invitee Evan Gattis, aka El Oso Blanco (Spanish for the White Bear) makes the opening-day roster after an impressive camp. He then hits a home run in Game 2 in his first start and second major league at-bat off Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who pitched only 3 1/3 innings. Gattis is the seventh Braves player to hit a home run in his first game since the franchise moved to Atlanta.
He said it: “There’s no (words) to explain it. I’m glad I got that one out of the way. Couldn’t have planned it. Just excited. Happy. Little emotional after the game.” — Gattis
2. Hot out of the blocks
April 8: Braves 2, Marlins 0
What happened: Justin Upton hits his sixth home run in the Braves’ first seven games (6-1) and has a four-hit night in Miami.
He said it: “You’ve got to try not to get too high on it. Continue to come in and get your work in; keep doing what you’re doing.” — Upton
3. Better than the Nationals
April 14: Braves 9, Nationals 0
What happened: Chris Johnson collects four hits, and the Braves sweep the defending National League East champion Nationals on April 12-14 to complete 6-0 trip, setting the tone for their majors-best road record and season success against Nationals, who virtually every month would claim they are better than the Braves.
He said it: “We’ve been playing pretty good, and we know the Nationals are supposed to be pretty good. So it was good to make a statement early (and) let them know we’re going to be tough to beat.” — Andrelton Simmons
4. The brothers Upton
April 23: Braves 10, Rockies 2
What happened: B.J. and Justin Upton hit back-to-back homers in 10-1 victory at Colorado in the nightcap of doubleheader sweep that began with coldest game (23 degrees at first pitch) in Coors Field history. Justin’s homer is his 11th to break the previous Atlanta record for April. (He ended up with 12 for the month.) Hall of Famers Lloyd and Paul Waner, famed “Little Poison” and “Big Poison” of the 1938 Pirates, were the only brothers who previously hit consecutive homers in the same inning.
He said it: “He had me excited about his good swing, then I got a good pitch to hit, too.” — Justin Upton
5. Welcome back, Mac
May 6: Braves 7, Reds 4
What happened: Brian McCann comes off the disabled list after nearly seven months of rehab from labrum surgery and goes o-for-4, but he hits three homers and has 10 RBIs in his first six games back.
He said it: “I’m eager to get back on the field, get that feeling again. A lot of hard work has been put in, and there has been a lot of people that have helped me get to this point. And it’s been a long road, but a good one.” — McCann
6. A monumental loss
July 24: Braves 8, Mets 2
What happened: Tim Hudson sustains a season-ending broken ankle in freak play while covering first base in a victory against Mets. The Braves lose the next day, then reel off a 14-game winning streak with Kris Medlen stepping up his performance in his pal Hudson’s absence.
He said it: “We’re going to miss him, but we’ve got a good club. I told him before I left him last night, I want you around. I want you around in crutches or a boot, whatever it is. But I want you there and being supportive. I said, ‘I’ll even let you manage a couple of games if you want to do that. Sit here next to me and make the decisions.’ He said, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want to do that.’” — Fredi Gonzalez
7. A high and low for J-Hey
July 27: Braves 2, Cardinals 0
What happened: Jason Heyward moves to leadoff role, where he proves to be the spark that Braves had lacked all season from that spot in the order.
He said it: “Let him do that for a little bit. … If Jason were (5-foot-10), you’d say, ‘Oh, he’s your leadoff guy. But because he’s (6-foot-5) and 240 (pounds) and can drive the ball out of the ballpark, you’re always hesitant to bat him in the leadoff spot.” — Gonzalez
Aug. 21: Braves 4, Mets 1
What happened: Heyward gets hit by a Jonathon Niese fastball in New York, and it breaks his jaw in two places. The Braves’ offense averages two runs per game fewer while going 13-13 in next 26 games without him than they had in the previous 22 games with him in the leadoff spot.
He said it: “I wanted to elevate a fastball right there, and then it didn’t slip out of my hands, but it kind of ran in on him. Obviously no intent, but I just felt bad. It’s every pitcher and every hitter’s worst nightmare. Just hope he’s OK.” — Niese
8. Chipper’s replacement
July 28: Braves 5, Cardinals 2
What happened: Third baseman Chris Johnson goes 3-for-4 in the series finale of a three-game sweep of the Cardinals on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” to move past Yadier Molina and two Cardinals teammates into the lead for the NL batting title at .338. He’s eventually overtaken by the Rockies’ Michael Cuddyer for the NL batting title.
He said it: “We just tried to chip away, get one here, get one there. Our pitching staff, (Kris) Medlen tonight, slammed the door for us.” — Johnson
9. Happy, happy, happy
Sept. 23: Braves 5, Cubs 2
What happened: Braves clinch NL East when Nationals lose to Marlins. The Braves clinched during the sixth inning of their road game against the Cubs, which they won before celebrating at Wrigley Field.
He said it: “It’s an amazing feeling. Time flies. You can’t take things for granted.” — McCann