Hamels Quiets Braves Offense
Braves starter Mike Minor has been very good lately. His last six starts have been as good as we could want. But he was without his best stuff against a sharp Cole Hamels at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday night and the result was decided early. If the first inning could have been erased however we might still be playing.
Minor was greeted by back-to-back doubles from Jimmy Rollins and Domonic Brown. Brown would have been out at second but Martin Prado filling in for a struggling Dan Uggla dropped the throw. Minor got Chase Utley for the first out then served up a Ryan Howard home run giving Hamels all he would need to win. Earlier this year that might have been all it took for Minor to collapse and force the bullpen into action. But like Ben Sheets the night before, Minor bowed his neck and fought his way through the next six innings without giving anything up. The bullpen wasn’t called on until the eighth when and impressive Luis Avilan and Cory Gearrin (with the help of Reed Johnson’s back against the wall catch) set the Phillies down in order.
It’s true most Phillies hits in innings two through seven were of the extra base variety and Minor needed superb defense from Michael Bourn and a Paul Janish – Prado – Freddie Freeman double play to bail him out of a couple of jams, but he never allowed it to distract him from his part of the game. That’s a sign of his increasing maturity on the mound. Perhaps it comes from having done this for a year and watching Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Sheets do it. Whatever the reason, the result is a much improved pitcher. If the Braves vaunted “much improved” offense had shown up he might have won. But Hamels made sure that it didn’t.
Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting
Tuesday’s offense consisted of a singles from Chipper Jones (2nd), Bourn (bunt 7th), Freeman (8th) and pinch hitter Tyler Pastornicky (9th). Brian McCann (5th) singled as well but forgot exactly how slow he is and was the easily thrown out at second base trying to stretch it into a double. On the night no Brave managed to get into scoring position against Hamels who got stronger and his pitches nastier as the night went on.
That’s A Wrap
A lot of folks were complaining about the offense last night and I have my gripes as well. Braves hitters swung at far too many first pitches and didn’t make Hamels work like they did in Atlanta. Skipper Fredi Gonzales rested Uggla who always gives him fits but of course almost every pitcher is giving him fits now. To win we need that right handed, 30 homer, 80 RBI bat we all thought we traded for last year. I don’t care if he hits 250 as long as he doesn’t continue to strike out or pop up every time there are runners on base for him. The thunder is gone from his bat and without it lefties like Hamels will have their way with us. Hamels showed a bit of wildness early on that could have been exploited but wasn’t; too many people swinging at his reputation instead of his pitches. Having said that, Cole Hamels is a stud; one of about a half dozen pitchers in the NL that I’d give that title too. When he takes the mound his team expects to win. He didn’t do that in Atlanta last week but tonight Hamels was that guy- a 9 inning, complete game shutout, losing streak stopper. He’s worth every penny the Phillies gave him to stay and the kind of pitcher a championship team needs to win. . . Dear Santa, I want one in Atlanta!