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MIN@ATL: Gattis' first career slam pads Braves' lead

Atlanta -- Six Flags is open, but the most exciting ride in Atlanta right now may be the one Evan Gattis is on.

"Definitely the time of my life," said Gattis. "It's a ride, and I'm enjoying it. I'm just enjoying playing baseball every day."

Gattis certainly enjoyed circling the bases on his first career grand slam and 10th homer of the season, tops among Major League rookies, off Minnesota starter Vance Worley (1-5), which capped a five-run fourth inning and helped lift the Atlanta Braves to an 8-3 win -- their sixth in a row -- over the Twins on Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field.

The slam was set up by Gattis' ability to work the count on Worley, who threw only 55 of his 91 pitches for strikes, walked two batters and hit two others -- one of them Gattis an inning earlier.

"He missed outside with two sliders then a fastball on the outside corner that could have gone either way, and that might have changed the at-bat," Gattis recalled of the plate appearance, which came with two out and followed a bloop single to center by Jason Heyward and a five-pitch walk to Freddie Freeman. "Then, 3-0, I didn't have the take sign and just got enough of it."

"I like to get the hitters, especially in those RBI situations, to swing the bat," said Manager Fredi Gonzalez of the green light given Gattis. "Go get yourself four, or at least a couple of them, and he did it. He took advantage of that."

The win completed a sweep of the Twins, capped a 6-0 homestand and allowed the Braves to raise their record to 15-5 at Turner Field, a Major League-leading .750 winning percentage at home. They'll enjoy an off-day Thursday then head to New York for a weekend series with the Mets.

"You go on long road trips, they can wear on you," said center fielder B.J. Upton, whose fourth-inning solo homer proved to be the winning run. "It's definitely good to sweep the homestand, so hopefully we can take that to the road."

The Twins dropped their eighth straight game. They'll open a series in Detroit on Thursday.

Given an 8-0 cushion, Atlanta starter Paul Maholm (6-4) settled in and kept the Twins, who rested All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, a career .800 hitter against Maholm (4-for-5), off-balance.

"Just mixing speeds," said Maholm, of how he found success. "We put up some runs early and got ahead by eight in the fourth, so I just tried to mix speeds and get outs," said Maholm. "'Gat' called a great game. We've worked well together."

Maholm won his second straight start, putting victorious bookends on the homestand -- he won the opener against the Dodgers on Friday -- and continuing his stellar pitching at Turner Field, where he has a 1.69 ERA (four earned runs in 21 1/3 innings) in 2013, having allowed two or fewer runs in all three home starts.

"I've always enjoyed pitching here," said the Braves' lefty, who raised his career mark at Turner Field to 5-3 while lowering his career ERA at The Ted to 2.54. "Obviously, the defense has taken care of me. We've had some games where I've gotten runs early and I can just kind of relax and pitch."

Gattis credited Maholm's diverse repertoire, and especially his changeup, for his success Wednesday.

"He's just really good," Gattis said, "He can add and subtract [velocity] with his fastball. He's got four-seam, two-seam, good sink, good changeup and then two offspeed pitches, really three, if you want to go slider, curveball and then cutter. He's tough, man."

Maholm, who came in 0-1, with an 8.25 ERA in his lone start against Minnesota, was tough on the Twins, limiting them to one unearned run on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings, retiring nine in a row at one point. The only run he allowed came in the sixth, and was unearned. He struck out four and walked one, throwing 112 pitches, 74 for strikes.

It was a welcome performance for the Braves, whose bullpen needed a day to catch its collective breath.

"Last night, obviously with the rain delay, Huddy only went five, and it kind of taxed the bullpen a little bit," Maholm said. "I wanted to go as deep as I possibly could to give them only one inning, if possible. The two broken-bat singles kind of ended it for me, but I'm going to do anything I can to try and take care of the bullpen."

The Braves took care of Worley, who allowed eight runs, all earned, on 10 hits, three of those leaving the yard. The eight runs were the most he's given up in his career, while the 3 2/3 innings marked his second-shortest start of the season. Minnesota optioned Worley to Triple-A Rochester after the game.

Atlanta continued its trend of scoring in the first inning, as Heyward had his first of two hits on the day, lining an RBI single to center to score center fielder Jordan Schafer, who'd led off with a walk and moved to second on a Ramiro Pena single. Heyward went toe-to-toe with Worley in the nine-pitch at-bat, fighting back from an 0-2 count then drilling a full-count fastball into center.

In the third inning, the Braves used Worley's inability to locate against him. Pena, starting at short as Andrelton Simmons got the day off, hit his second homer of the year, lining a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right. After Worley hit Heyward and Gattis with pitches, third baseman Chris Johnson singled to center, scoring Heyward to increase the lead to 3-0.

In the fourth, Upton blasted his fourth homer of the year, way out to left-center on a 3-2 pitch, then the Braves loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk, setting the stage for Gattis. The hero Tuesday night, when he hit a game-tying homer with two out in the ninth on an 0-1 pitch, Gattis worked the count to 3-0 then powered the next offering over the wall in right.

"It's legend, and good for him," said Gonzalez. "The guys really rally around him and enjoy being around him."

About the only fault Gonzalez could find with Gattis came on an inadvertent faux pas in the eighth inning.

"He threw Cory Rasmus' first strikeout into the stands," said Gonzalez. "We need to teach him a little more court awareness about stuff like that."

Rasmus ended up finishing off the game, pitching out of a first-and-second, one-out jam in the eighth before allowing two runs on a pair of ninth-inning homers in his Major League debut. He allowed just the two hits, while striking out three and walking one in 1 2/3 innings.

Heyward, one of three Braves with at least two hits (Pena and Johnson also had two hits), had his second straight multihit game and his third of the homestand. The Braves right fielder is hitting .304 (7-for-23) since coming off the disabled list.

With a 6-0 homestand in the books, Atlanta heads to New York for three then to Toronto for two. It's a lot shorter road trip than the 10-day trips to which they've become accustomed, and they'll head out with an all-around good vibe.

"I love this team," said Gattis. "That's what I was saying after B.J. hit his home run. All of our pitchers, relievers, everybody, we all contribute. We've all got things that we do to help this team. It's a good feeling in this clubhouse. We're playing good baseball."

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