PHILADELPHIA After Phillies pitcher Aaron Harang made him look bad in his first two at-bats Monday, Hector Olivera stepped up in the fourth inning and had the kind of impact moment that Braves fans have eagerly awaited and hope to see many more times.
Then he made an even bigger one in the ninth inning.
Olivera hit a two-run, two-out double in the fourth inning and a two-run homer in the ninth, and Williams Perez pitched seven strong innings in a 7-2 win that snapped the Braves' 12-game losing streak, their longest skid in a single season since 1977.
The double and homer were the first extra-base hits for Olivera, who is 4-for-20 with seven RBIs in his first six major league games. Until Monday, the 30-year-old Cuban rookie had not shown the line-drive power potential that scouts for the Braves and other teams had raved about when he was the subject of a bidding war last winter, which the Dodgers won by signing him to a six-year, $62.5 million contract.
The Braves gave up three major league pitchers and top infield prospect Jose Peraza to get him in a trade six weeks ago, and until Monday that deal had left a bad taste in the mouths of many Braves fans as the team sunk deeper into its worst slump in decades.
Freddie Freeman hit a two-run opposite-field homer in the first inning and the Braves never trailed in just their second win in 21 games and third win in 29 road games since July 7. They had lost 13 consecutive road games and been swept in four straight road series before winning Monday's series opener, which moved them back to two games ahead of the last-place Phillies in the National League East.
If the Braves had lost, they would have fell into a tie with the Phillies and been in last place after the All-Star break for the first time since finishing 65-97 in the NL West in 1990.
Perez (5-6) won for the first time in 2 1/2 months, allowing six hits and two runs in seven innings with no walks and seven strikeouts. The rookie had been 0-6 with a 9.50 in seven starts since returning from a five-week stint on the disabled list for a bruised foot. In his first start back from the DL on July 31, he gave up nine hits and a career-high nine runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
His second start against the Phillies was something entirely different, as Perez looked like the pitcher he was before the foot injury, when he worked out of trouble on a regular basis while going 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA in his first 11 major league games including eight starts.
Rookies Matt Marksberry and closer Arodys Vizcaino pitched a hitless inning apiece for the Braves. Harang (5-15) gave up eight hits and five runs in five innings and has won just once in 13 decisions over his past 17 starts.
The Phillies had runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but Perez allowed just one run in that span Cesar Hernandez doubled to start the third inning and scored one out later on a sacrifice fly.
After Hernandez's double, Perez retired seven consecutive batters, including four groundouts and two strikeouts, before Brian Bogusevic's pinch-hit homer in the fifth inning. By that point the Braves had built a 5-1 lead after scoring three runs in the top of the fifth. After the Bogusevic homer, Perez retired eight of the last nine batters he faced, with a hit batter accounting for the only base runner in that span.
In the Braves' fifth, Olivera's doubled caromed off the left-center field wall at the 374 sign, and sprinted from the batter's box, not taking anything for granted. He'd struck out in his first two at-bats against Harang and was 2-for-17 with seven strikeouts in his young career before coming to bat in the fourth inning.
Jace Peterson, who had three hits, singled to start the fourth inning and scored on Andrelton Simmons' double to give the Braves a 3-1 lead. Two outs later, Nick Markakis walked to bring up Olivera, who had struck out flailing at a slider down and away with the bases loaded to end the second inning.
With two on in the fourth, Olivera laid off first-pitch changeup in the dirt and connected squarely with the next pitch, a 1-0 fastball over the middle.
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