McCann's three-run blast propels Braves

Brian Hedger, The SportsXchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Atlanta Braves are trying to overcome a rash of recent injuries without losing ground in the National League East and got a big lift from Brian McCann on Friday night.
McCann launched a three-run homer off Chicago White Sox starter John Danks in the sixth inning into the Braves' bullpen and it stood up as the difference in Atlanta's 6-4 win at U.S. Cellular Field.
Chicago rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth to make it interesting, but the Braves bullpen preserved the lead and closer Craig Kimbrel picking up his 27th save by working a scoreless ninth.
"He looks good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of McCann, who has been red hot at the plate the past couple of weeks. "He looks really good and he's a presence in the middle of that lineup."
Andrelton Simmons also homered for the Braves, putting them up 2-0 in the top of the third with a shot down the line in left, and Chris Johnson plated an insurance run with a clutch single in the ninth.
Tim Hudson evened his record at 7-7 by pitching 7 1/3 innings for the win, as the Braves (55-41) gained back the game they lost before the All-Star break to the second-place Washington Nationals -- who lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers to put them seven games back of Atlanta.
Hudson allowed eight hits and four runs (all earned) but walked only two and threw an economical 99 pitches (65 strikes). He also got two big double plays and several other great defensive plays behind him.
"We played some really good defense behind me, had some really great plays and I was able to make some pitches," Hudson said. "Then we got the three-run lead there (in the sixth and it makes my job easier. When you get a little lead like that, you can be more aggressive."
McCann, who went 1-for-4, hit .410 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 16 games before the break. He kept right on rolling with his long ball in the first game back, after subbing at the All-Star Game for injured Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (jammed thumb). His at-bat against Danks in the sixth was a classic, ending with his homer off a 3-2 changeup after he had fouled off a number of pitches.
"I made a bad pitch," Danks said. "I kind of got to the point where for lack of a better way of putting it, I ran out of things to throw at him. He's been an All-Star and he did what All-Stars do to bad pitches."
The Braves started the game without Freeman and left fielder Jason Heyward (right hamstring strain) -- who both were injured in a series against Cincinnati right before the break -- but got right-fielder Justin Upton back after a left calf strain kept him out the final three games against the Reds.
Freeman also returned to action in the bottom of the eighth, when he came in as a defensive replacement. He collided with 6-foot-6, 285-pound Adam Dunn on a close play at first but appeared to be fine afterward.
McCann's homer broke a 2-2 tie and put the Braves up by three in the sixth, but Chicago got to Hudson in the eighth -- scoring runs on a double by Alexei Ramirez and a single by Jeff Keppinger that scored Ramirez.
Alex Rios went 1-for-3 to lead the White Sox (37-56), including a two-run double in the third, but was replaced in right field in the seventh by Casper Wells. White Sox manager Robin Ventura said it was his decision after Rios didn't run very hard to first on a double play grounder to short that stranded a runner on third and kept the score tied 2-2.
"We just expect more than that," Ventura said. "It was simple, nothing more than that. There (are) just expectations and we are not starting the second half off that way. It was simple. He will back in (Saturday). Tonight, that's what happens when you don't run."
Chicago has now lost three straight and four of its last six games.
NOTES: The White Sox reinstated RHP Jake Peavy from the 15-day disabled list They sent RHP Simon Castro to Triple-A Charlotte after their final game before the All-Star break. The 32-year-old Peavy is scheduled to start Saturday against the Braves. He was on the DL since June 6 with a fractured rib. Peavy made just one rehab start July 14 at Double-A Birmingham and picked up the win after allowing one run and five hits with four strikeouts and two walks in five innings. ... Ventura said injured RHP Jesse Crain (shoulder soreness) didn't throw during the break and will likely need at least one outing in the minors before returning to the bullpen. ... Jordan Schafer (stress fracture, foot) is with the Braves for this series but will travel back to Atlanta to meet with a doctor when the team heads to New York to play the Mets. Schafer has is expected to return in about three weeks.

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