On the baseball front, it was a very good day to be a Braves fan. The Braves parlayed their standard formula that has worked regularly to success this season, except for one major tweak, one major part working, and two parts resting. All-in-all, a nice way to end the series with the Astros.
The formula, as you likely know, is one part strong starting pitching, one part home runs, and one part shut down relief. The major tweak actually was in the starting pitching part of the formula. Tommy Hanson was not strong today. He was both dominant and overpowering, going seven innings, only allowing three hits, and striking out fourteen! He did this by mixing in enough off-speed stuff to keep the Astros off his fastball. And he relied on movement rather than his typical velocity to make the Astros hitters resemble the Braves hitters without the home run power. What I really loved was that Hanson never tired. In fact, his hardest pitch before the seventh inning only reached 92. In the seventh, he practically sat on 94! This is the Tommy Hanson that I’d love to see in the post-season, should the team make it. In my opinion, there may be some equal to “this” Tommy, but none better. There’s no need to fear, Tommy Hanson’s here! (with due credit to one of favorite cartoon characters). After Hanson, Eric O’Flaherty pitched the eighth and Jonny Venters the ninth for the save. After Craig Kimbrel threw 30 pitches last night, he got the day off today and “Jackpot Jonny” was on the spot, once again pitching shutdown, scoreless ball.
On the offensive side, the formula was one part resurgent Dan Uggla, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and one part All-Star Brian McCann, who hit a two-run homer in the sixth. Chipper got the day off, which actually surprised me a bit. I thought it might be McCann who rested today, as he got beat up pretty bad behind the plate last night and Chipper has benefited from several off-days recently. Chipper also loves to hit in Houston, a factor of both the park and hitting in front of his parents. As Fred alluded to, the tuneup his Dad gave his left-handed swing, getting his hands into the swing has paid early dividends. The way it was demonstrated by his Dad to his Mom in the stands after one of Chipper’s hits this series was really cool, I thought.
A great way to make the most of five hits! All we need is the best starting and relief pitching in the league to go with it (which we now have) to win. That’s my take: what’s yours?