Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By CORY McCARTNEY  |  Last updated 8/28/13
ATLANTA -- Chris Johnson's mindset was simple. "You go up there thinking, 'Alright, you want me, you got me,'" he said. The Indians' Joe Smith walked All-Star Freddie Freeman with one on, two outs and the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday at Turner Field to get to Johnson. Hitless in his first four plate appearances, Johnson was down 1-2 but worked Smith in a six-pitch at-bat, driving a 91-mph sinker to left field to score Jordan Schafer and give the Braves their 21st walk-off win -- and the first of Johnson's career. "All my at-bats were a battle tonight," he said. "If I get down to two strikes I try to ground it out as best as possible, stay on the ball and put something hard in play and it went through." Here are three observations from the Braves' win. 1. Schafer is providing the spark the lineup has needed He broke immediately and as Johnson's line drive flew past shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera's outstretched glove hand and skipped into left field, Schafer was already at third base. By the time Michael Brantley's throw from shallow left reached catcher Carlos Santana, Schafer's hand was on the bag, delivering the winning run. It was Johnson that got the team's now traditional water-bottle bath and Schafer joined the fray, ripping off his helmet and running to join the mob of Braves in the infield. But as much as the focus was on Johnson's clutch hit, this is a win that showcased how deadly Schafer can be on the base paths. "I don't know how many guys we have on our club that can score from there," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "That ball was hit pretty hard." Schafer registered his first multi-hit, multi-steal game since April 10, 2012 -- with the Astros at the time that game, coincidentally, came against the Braves. -- as he went 3-for-4 with a walk, two RBI and two steals to give him 15 on the season. He nearly added another if not for a questionable call in the fourth inning. In the days immediately following leadoff man Jason Heyward's fractured jaw Schafer struggled, failing to get on base in the first three games. But he went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple in Sunday's finale against the Cardinals and then got on base in all four plate appearances Wednesday. "With J-Hey going down, it's such a big blow to our team," Johnson said. "Schafer has done an amazing job, just swinging the bat really well. I've played with him for a while and this is the best I've seen him swing the bat in a long time. He's playing the game hard." 2. Maholm remains a force at home His last four starts had been beyond forgettable. But Maholm could rest assured that his struggles, which included a 0-4 record and 9.16 ERA, came away from Turner Field. Because at home, it's been a different story altogether for the left-hander. Maholm allowed six hits and one earned run in six inning and dropped his ERA in Atlanta to 1.88, which is tied for the team lead with rookie Alex Wood, while the next closest staff member is at 2.71 (Julio Teheran). "I wish I had a lot more home starts," Maholm joked. "I think it's been my whole career. Whether you go to PNC (Pittsburgh), you go to Wrigley you go to here last year. I wish I could fix it. The only unfortunate part is 23 of my starts have been on the road ... hopefully most of the time here on out I get some home starts." But as impressive as he's been, making an interesting case to start a postseason game at home despite his road troubles, it's what Maholm did to Jason Kipnis in the fifth inning that truly stood out. He floated the pitch -- call it a very slow junk ball or as 1940s Pirates outfield Maurice Van Robays called it "Eephus" -- a 59-mph curveball that took Kipnis off guard as it dropped in for a strike. Maholm followed with an 88-mph fastball, a 90-mph fastball, then induced a groundout on another curveball, this one 76 mph. Snail speed pitches has been part of Maholm's repertoire for some time, throwing it 0.6 percent of the time this season, averaging 62.9 mph per pitch and he's been tracked using it as far back as 2010. But he's very rarely lived in the sub-60 mph ranks. As Baseball Prospectus points out, Maholm's previous slowest pitch was 60 mph against Jason Bourgeois in 2010, but earlier this season, Maholm threw a strike to the Phillies' Chase Utley that was clocked at 58 mph. (http:atmlb.com185HUyN). He's now gone under 60 twice, both resulting in strikes. 3. Positive signs in Uggla's return from DL? Dan Uggla strode to the plate in the second inning, "I Can See Clearly Now" pumping through the Turner Field speakers. In a Braves uniform for the first time since he was placed on the disabled list Aug. 13 to undergo Lasik eye surgery, he struck out on four pitches against Justin Masterson in his first at-bat. "I would have liked to make contact or something like that," Uggla deadpanned. "It's kind of like those Opening Day jitters or whatever." He bounced back after falling behind 1-2 in his second plate appearance to draw a walk and while he would strike out for the 148th time on three pitches his next time up, he broke through in the eighth, singling on a soft pop up off Joe Smith. Overall, Uggla has three hits in 11 plate appearances with the Braves and Triple-A Gwinnett after the surgery with a home run, two singles, a walk and four strikeouts. That gives him just two at-bats that haven't fallen into the Three True Outcomes category (home run, strikeout, walk), which have defined him in his run in Atlanta. They've only been amplified over his last 27 games overall in which he's produced a HR, K or BB 57.6 percent of the time. Hitting .186 with an NL-high 146 strikeouts when he went on the DL, the hope was an improved Uggla could give the Braves a more reliable threat when the calendar flips to October. Give Uggla this: the progression of Wednesday night was a start as he worked a walk and delivered a single in two of his three final at-bats.
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