Hello again everyone and welcome from the happy north-land on a winning Braves’ Friday night!
On a night where pitching reigned supreme, the Braves offense alternated looking awesome and awful, with the awful part coming out on top most of the time. The net result was a strange box score, with the Phillies racking up 18 strikeouts (16 by Cliff Lee in seven innings, a new career high for him), yet also allowing 12 hits and five runs in a 5-0 loss. I’d love to know how often that has happened in the history of the game; I’m sure their occurrence and those of blue moons would be neck and neck!
The Braves offense came in bunches in the fourth and ninth innings. After two were out in the fourth, the Braves hitters suddenly decided to swing at the first pitch strikes being thrown by Lee. In a span of five pitches the Braves got doubles from Alex Gonzalez, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla, along with a Chipper Jones RBI single for good measure. And the Gonzalez and McCann balls missed being HR’s by only a foot or two. In the ninth the Braves added two insurance runs on singles by Jason Heyward (who then stole second!), Martin Prado, and Alex Gonzalez.
But the real story of the night was a masterful Derek Lowe, who took a no-hitter and near-perfect game into the seventh. His bid for history took a big hit when he apparently hurt his big toe when he singled in the top of the seventh (where’s the DH when you need it? :-)). Lowe apparently talked Fredi into going back out to start the seventh, but he was visibly struggling pushing off the rubber (he was actually struggling to remain upright, if truth be told). When Shane Victorino broke up the no-hit bid with a single, everyone expected Fredi to lift Lowe. Instead, Fredi left him in to allow a rule-book double to Placido Polanco. Fredi then brought in an overpowering Eric O’Flaherty, who struck out the side in order (Ryan Howard, Ben Francisco, and Raul Ibanez) to end the inning.
Jonny Venters pitched the eighth an then, with a 5-0 lead, Fredi turned to Craig Kimbrel, pitching for the second night in a row, to finish the game. This was obviously a tough call, as Kimbrel was warmed up before the last two Braves’ runs scored. It could be significant, though, as Craig could easily not be available for one of the next two games.
All-in-all, a great game that will be long remembered. The victory, the sixth straight and 11th in the last 14 games, could prove costly if the Lowe injury proves serious (not to be overly dramatic, but a big toe injury effectively ruined the career of Dizzy Dean, one of the all-time greats). I still think the Braves hitting is not yet in sync. If it starts to reach its potential, and Lowe isn’t seriously injured, this team is going to win a lot more games. That’s my take; what’s yours?