On the baseball front, those of you who had the good fortune to watch the first two games of this series have been treated to some All-Star caliber pitching, first by Tommy Hanson in the Braves 5-0 win on Tuesday, then by Josh Johnson in the Marlins 5-1 win last night.
Focusing on Hanson for a moment, this outing was the first appearance this season of the dominant Tommy Hanson. For whatever reason, Hanson has been almost frustratingly inconsistent over parts of last season and continuing on into 2011. When he’s good, he’s very, very, good. When he’s bad, he’s league average. Tuesday night he was outstanding.
I won’t go through his performance in detail, as Fred has already written about it. I will give you all an “Early Warning” indicator of what kind of night Hanson is likely to have. What you need to keep an eye on is the radar gun. When “Great Tommy” is on the mound, his fastball sits at 93-94, touching 95 or even 96. When “Average Tommy” is pitching, his fastball sits at 90-91. Sometimes you can even see a transformation during the game, as he’ll actually pick up velocity as he gets his mechanics into a groove.
Don’t read cause and effect into this, though. I think the increased velocity is actually a side effect of Tommy getting all his moving parts into sync. I think most observers would agree that Hanson’s delivery is a bit unorthodox. Visually, it almost looks like his arm stops in mid-delivery while he “loads up”, building leverage. When everything is in-mesh, location, movement, and velocity are all better. Said another way, I’d be willing to bet that Tommy could get the velocity up and still not be “Great Tommy” if increasing the velocity were the only objective. The good news for Braves fans is that he has shown the ability to go off on long runs of “Great Tommy” when he gets locked in. And he won’t get much more locked in than he was Tuesday. I could easily envision Hanson throwing a no-hitter.
Speaking of no-hitters, that’s exactly what the Marlins’ Josh Johnson had going into the eighth inning last night. Even with his pitch count sitting at 105, the Marlins sent him back out to pitch the eighth. He struck out Gonzalez to start the inning, then gave up an opposite field double to Freddie Freeman on his 109th and last pitch (for him) of the game. The Marlins pen retired the Braves with no runs scoring in the eighth, but gave up a home run to Chipper in the ninth. The homer was Chipper’s first of the season and also accounted for the 1500th RBI of his career. As many of you have likely heard, Chipper and Eddie Murray are the only switch hitters in history to have both 1500 RBIs and 2500 hits.
On the Braves side of the rubber, Tim Hudson didn’t have his best stuff. While he got the Marlins to hit grounders, they were hit harder than usual and usually were hit away from the defense. The Marlins only really elevated one ball, a homer by Logan Morrison in the third. Hudson did eventually settle down, retiring 14 of the last 16 batters he faced before leaving in the sixth. But the damage was already done, as the Marlins had given Johnson a five run lead. The announcers didn’t say, but I suspect that Johnson hasn’t blown many five run leads, at least since he came back from Tommy John surgery.
I, for one, am tired of the Braves having to face Cy Young candidates every night, as the adage about good pitching stopping good hitting is playing out in the opposition’s favor too often this season. Given the depth of the Braves rotation, this has to even out or even play into the Braves favor at some point. Perhaps that point is tonight, as the Braves send Brandon Beachy out against Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA thus far this season. On his career his is 4-6 with a 4.96 ERA lifetime against Atlanta. Game time is 7:10 PM.
All in favor of the Braves facing nothing but 3,4,and 5 starters for the next month, say “Aye”!