Speaking of being way harder than it needed to be, that’s the way the game played out last night as well. The Braves continued to rely on their phenomenal pitching most of the night. Derek Lowe carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before he ran into a jam. Not to worry, Eric O’Flaherty came to the rescue, bailing Lowe out of a bases loaded pickle. Then Jonny Venters threw his usual dominant eighth inning. Craig Kimbrel came in to try an record his nineteenth save of the year, protecting a 2-0 lead. After striking out two, a walk and a double had Craig in trouble. When Mike Stanton took a 99 MPH knee-high fastball on an 0-2 count, I thought the game was over. Instead, the umpire called it a ball (and, with all due respect to Joe Simpson, when “Fox Trax” shows the pitch touching the border of the strike zone, that’s a strike). Stanton then somehow fought off a 97 MPH fastball, hitting it past Freddie Freeman for a game tying double. Kimbrel went out to strike out the side, but the damage was done.
[NOTE: IN KEEPING WITH TONIGHT"S THEME, AT THIS POINT LAST NIGHT A HUGE WINDSTORM BLEW THROUGH THE AREA. WHILE THE TEMPERATURE DROPPED !5 DEGREES IN 15 MINUTES, MY CABLE SERVICE ALSO DROPPED OUT, AND JUST NOW RETURNED. JEEZ!]
The Braves showed great resilience, though. In the top of the tenth, Chipper Jones walked, Brian McCann singled him to second, and Freddie Freeman hit a single back through the box to score Chipper. That turned out to be enough, as the Braves trotted out their old guys to close things out. Playing match-ups, Fredi Gonzalez used Scott Proctor, George Sherrill, and then Scott Linebrink to seal the deal. It wasn’t pretty, as Proctor allowed a double and a walk to go along with the out he recorded on a ground ball to Chipper. Sherrill struck out Greg Dobbs swinging, then Linebrink recorded his first save since 2009 while striking out Gabby Sanchez looking.
In fairness, I have to say that Sherrill has looked good recently. While I haven’t verified this yet via a visit to Fangraphs, empirically it seems that Sherill has backed off the velocity of his fastball a couple of MPH, coinciding with his improvement. Perhaps he’s found a little extra late movement that way; I don’t know. Maybe he’s just in a lucky streak. For whatever reason, it appears that left-handed batters are having a real hard time picking up his fastball, especially when he employs the sidestep.
The Braves remained three back of the Phillies, who beat the Dodgers last night. I better get this posted before my machine explodes or something!