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CHC@ATL: Gattis crushes a solo homer to left field

ATLANTA -- The sign of a good team is when one player goes down, someone else is ready to jump in.

On Sunday, Atlanta's leading home run hitter, Justin Upton, was out with a sore lower back, and closer Craig Kimbrel was resting. But the Braves showed they still have some pop and plenty in reserve in relief.

Evan Gattis broke a tie with a long home run to left field to open the fourth inning and Jason Heyward added a two-run blast in the seventh, as the Braves beat the Cubs, 5-2, on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field to complete a sweep of the three-game weekend series.

"It's always fun to watch him hit homers. He's hit quite a few, quite a few times in his short career," said Braves starter and winning pitcher Aaron Harang (4-3), the beneficiary of the power display. "He put a charge into that one and Jason put another charge into that two-run homer later in the game. That was huge. It was nice to get us back in a rhythm getting ready to go on the road."

Gattis' blast, his eighth of the year and first in eight games, came on a fastball up and in on the first pitch from Cubs starter Edwin Jackson (2-3) in the fourth and helped make a winner of Harang. Chicago had tied the game at 2 with two runs in the top of the inning.

"Right after we gave up two runs to tie the game, Gattis got us back on the board, and then a big two-run home run to give us a cushion, it was nice," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "It was nice to finish the homestand with a little momentum."

Atlanta finished the homestand 4-5, winning four of the last five. Contrast that with an 0-4 start as part of a seven-game losing streak.

"It's a move in the right direction. It's good for the morale of the team," said Gattis, who scored the game's first run on Ryan Doumit's RBI single in the second. "It's always good to get a homer and a win on getaway day."

The Cubs, on the other hand, have lost six of seven and are 1-4 on their nine-game road swing. They've scored three or fewer runs in all four losses.

The loss was their ninth in 10 games against the Braves, gave them a 1-7 mark in three-game series and concluded their first three-game sweep of the season. Chicago scored four runs in the three games and finished 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-13 over the final two games.

Playing without Upton, the Braves got a lift from Doumit, who manned left and batted sixth in Upton's absence. Doumit lashed a pair of singles and was central to a two-run second that got the Braves on the board.

The multihit game, his first as a Brave, continued a roll that started Saturday night. Doumit arrived at Turner Field on Saturday afternoon hitless in May -- 0-for-5 -- all in pinch-hitting roles. He'll head to the West Coast with confidence, having the game-winning RBI as a pinch-hitter Saturday, and with his heroics in a pinch Sunday, having made the most of only his sixth start this season.

"He had a big RBI double [Sunday]," Gonzalez said. "He did a nice job. ... The more at-bats you give guys like Doumit and [Jordan] Schafer it's going to pay dividends down the road."

Harang's experience paid dividends.

"They've got a young, aggressive team over there and I think I was able to take a little bit advantage of that, knowing how aggressive they are," said Harang, who struck out nine, two off his season high, allowed only two runs and six hits while surrendering two walks.

He ended a three-start losing streak and has pitched at least six innings and allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his eight starts. In six innings, the 36-year-old put men on early, but made pitches to keep out of trouble. He was at his best in the fourth, after allowing a Nate Schierholtz double to tie the game.

"I was just able to bear down and make some good pitches after that and get them swinging at some pitches up, too, in the zone," he said. "Once they got those two runs back, I had to really bear down and execute."

"It's fun catching the veteran guys just because they're a wealth of knowledge," said Gattis. "They've been in so many games and so many situations. If it's not this, it's that. He's been through so many games out there."

After the Schierholtz double, Harang bore down. He stranded the potential go-ahead run at second, striking out the next three hitters on his way to retiring nine of the last 10 hitters he faced, six of them by strikeout.

Atlanta's bullpen did the rest, as Anthony Varvaro, Ian Thomas, Alex Wood and David Carpenter shut the door.

"We were going to give Kimbrel a day, so you've got to try to piece it together," Gonzalez said. "Our bullpen did a nice job."

Everybody chipping in and doing a nice day's work -- the Braves hope that's a recipe for success heading west.

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