7/2/2014 12:18 A.M. ET
Bullpen's performance keeps Braves rolling
By Mark Bowman and Joe Morgan / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Shae Simmons earned his first Major League victory on Tuesday night at Turner Field, rescuing starter Mike Minor in a tumultuous fifth and pitching 1 2/3 perfect innings as the Braves defeated the Mets, 5-4, at Turner Field.
"We had to get some big outs there in the fifth inning and he did," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He got two big outs there."
Minor added: "It was great. Shae came in and I left him with two guys on and still two outs to get, and he closed the door."
Simmons' effort was part of yet another stellar night from the Braves' bullpen, which gave up only one hit and struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings. The relief effort helped Atlanta notch its sixth consecutive victory and remain in first place in the National League East.
"I think the MVP of the team today is the bullpen," Gonzalez said. "They covered 4 2/3 [innings] out of that bullpen today in a one-run game. That's a pretty awesome night for us out there."
It has been an awesome couple of weeks for Braves relievers, who have been red hot and incredibly reliable since a rough stretch from May 26 to June 14. Atlanta went 7-11 as its bullpen compiled a 6.10 ERA, a .303 opponents' batting average and issued 32 walks compared to 42 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings.
Three of those outings featured Jordan Walden struggling in his return from a month-long stay on the disabled list. Once Walden got hot, however, so did the Braves' bullpen. In eight outings since June 14, Walden has tallied five holds, a save and 12 strikeouts and eight scoreless innings.
During that same stretch, Atlanta's bullpen compiled a 1.53 ERA in 53 innings, limiting opponents to a .187 clip and striking out 59 batters against only 18 walks. The Braves are 11-6 during this run, and Minor and the rest of the starting staff like what they see.
And with David Carpenter scheduled to return to the club on Wednesday after a stint on the disabled list, Atlanta could be in store for an even stronger bullpen.
"The rest of the guys, it's the fifth inning, and I'm diving out of there," Minor said. "Those guys are picking me up."
Jaime optioned back to Triple-A as return short-lived
ATLANTA -- Juan Jaime's return to the Major League level proved to be even shorter than the return to the Minors he experienced the past two days. After Tuesday night's 5-4 win over the Mets, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced that Jaime had been optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for fellow right-handed reliever David Carpenter to come off the disabled list.
Just a few hours earlier, Gonzalez had welcomed Jaime back into his clubhouse to fill the roster spot that opened courtesy of Evan Gattis going on the disabled list with a bulging disk in his back. The Braves' skipper told media members Jaime was the no-brainer decision to serve as the corresponding aspect of this transaction.
But in the end, Jaime simply provided a few hours of insurance as the Braves went into Tuesday knowing they did not want to use Carpenter for a second straight day.
This marked the second time in three days that Jaime was sent back to the Minors. He was optioned to Gwinnett between games of Saturday's doubleheader to make room for Christian Bethancourt, who was brought up to at least serve as insurance until it was determined whether Gattis would be placed on the DL.
"I told [Jaime] to go down there and just keep pitching because this phone call is going to come again," Gonzalez said. "It's just a matter of, it's just the nature of the beast pitching out of the bullpen or pitching period in the Major Leagues."
Jaime made a solid impression as he surrendered one hit, issued one walk and recorded seven strikeouts in the four innings he completed for Atlanta from his June 20 Major League debut through Saturday.
Carpenter appeared to regain his confidence somewhere in the process of making two rehab appearances for Gwinnett. The right-handed reliever was not bothered by the right biceps strain that sidelined him two weeks ago.
Braves waiting to see effects of Gattis' epidural shot
ATLANTA -- The Braves remain hopeful that Evan Gattis will return to their lineup during the latter portion of July. But manager Fredi Gonzalez said a timetable will not be known until the club's medical staff evaluates the effect of an epidural injection Gattis was scheduled to receive in his ailing back.
"I don't know if it's 15 days, 16 days, 19 days," Gonzalez said. "The only thing I know is he was going to get an epidural and then let it sit for three or four days and then after those three or four days or five days, they can give you a better read on a timetable."
Christian Bethancourt made his second straight start behind the plate for the Braves on Tuesday night. While Gerald Laird is expected to share some of the catching duties, Bethancourt could end up getting a majority of the time behind the plate in Gattis' absence.
Bethancourt has long been lauded for his rocket arm and the athleticism he provides behind the plate. But the 22-year-old catcher will need some time to get used to some of the tendencies and preferences of the members of Atlanta's pitching staff.
As Bethancourt struggled to get on the same page as Alex Wood during Monday night's win over the Mets, it harkened memories of nine days earlier when Julio Teheran struggled to communicate with Gattis. Fortunately for the Braves, Wood handled the situation in a more professional manner on the field and admitted after the game it would just take time for him and Bethancourt to regain the feel they had when they worked together for the first two months of last season with Double-A Mississippi.
"He's learning too," Wood said. "Every game and every start up here is a new experience. I think he's finding out it's a whole different game up here and it's one of those things where you see what works and what doesn't. [Monday night] was a good learning experience for both of us."
Braves cheer on US, other teams in World Cup
ATLANTA -- There were two No. 8 jerseys in the Braves clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon. One belonged to Justin Upton, who usually sports the number for Atlanta. The other was a Clint Dempsey U.S. soccer jersey worn by Chris Johnson.
"The Latin American guys in here are pretty big soccer fans, so it's really cool to see them get so excited about their football," Johnson said. "I think that's why a lot of us American guys are kind of jumping on and taking part just to make it a team thing.
"It's a lot of fun. Any time you can put USA on something, it doesn't really matter what sport it is. We're all going to jump on and root for them."
Johnson was one of several Braves players to voice support for the US Men's National Team ahead of Tuesday's Round of 16 match against Belgium. Turner Field showed the live broadcast on the JumboTron.
Left-handed starter Alex Wood was another Atlanta player looking forward to the match. His was one of several necks craned upward to watch the game while stretching and taking batting practice before Tuesday night's game against the Mets.
"Anytime anybody represents our country in any sport, it's fun to watch," Wood said. "We want our country to be on the map in all sports, so it's pretty fun."
Johnson and Wood are just two of several Braves tuned into the World Cup. Curacao native Andrelton Simmons has been cheering on the Netherlands, while Julio Teheran has been rooting for Colombia, with both teams advancing to the quarterfinals.
But even if the Dutch falter, Simmons still has bragging rights in the clubhouse when it comes to soccer. Wood, without hesitation, declared Simmons the best footballer in a Braves uniform.
"It has to be Andrelton," Wood said. "He was a big soccer player growing up. He likes it a lot, so he's probably the best soccer player in the clubhouse."
Ryan Doumit, it would seem, is also a talented soccer player, as evidenced by a photo the Braves posted on Twitter of the veteran kicking a soccer ball a little more than a week ago.
But Johnson, who called himself "one of the better soccer players in here," joked that even though Doumit likes to kick the ball around, he is not very good at it.
"He's terrible," Johnson said while laughing. "We went out there and kicked it around a little bit, but only for a couple of minutes. It was too hot out there. But he's not very good at all."
Wood laughed and added: "I haven't seen [Doumit] play, but I wouldn't write him off."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.