April 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
After Derek Lowe and four relievers combined to pitch a shutout yesterday and the Braves have their young stud in Tommy Hanson going against a slop-throwing lefty, you feel pretty good. Then the game happened.
Tommy Hanson looked more like a 35 year old who was good 8 years ago trying to come back from his third shoulder surgery in five years than a budding ace today. His control wasn’t good, his velocity was way down–sitting 89-91 MPH with little life on his fastball–and his command was terrible. Even his breaking pitches lacked the bite we’re accustomed to seeing. I think the problem is mechanical. A hail delay forced him out of the game after 11 outs, but he really should have been pinch-hit for after 9.
In the second inning he issued a leadoff walk to Mike Morse and threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt. The Nationals moved him over on an Ankiel groundout and brought him home on a Danny Espinosa sacrifice fly. I’m pretty sure that counts as an “unearned” run, which is hilarious. He walked the pitcher later that inning, but got out of it having given up only one run. Atlanta got the run back in the top of the third behind a Nate McLouth HBP, wild pitch, and Chipper Jones single.
Then Hanson really fell apart in the bottom of the third. Jayson Werth doubled to lead off the inning and the next batter, Ryan Zimmerman, was hit by a pitch. A pair of deep flyouts got Werth home, then Hanson threw a 91-MPH, straight, belt-high fastball to Rick Ankiel who deposited it in the seats in right-center, giving the Nationals all the runs they would need.
Those weren’t all they would get, though. In the bottom of the 7th Ryan Zimmerman, facing Scott Linebrink who was making his Braves debut (joy!), hit a sinking liner to straight-away center field that McLouth tried to make a sliding play on. He didn’t, and by the time the ball was back in the infield Zimmerman was standing on third base. George Sherrill–also making his Braves debut (double joy!)–relieved Linebrink and got Adam LaRoche to ground out to second without a run scoring. Then Jim Riggleman pinch-hit for Mike Morse with Jerry Hairston Jr. and Fredi Gonzalez threw up four fingers. According to the walk Bonds chart, it was a ‘go with your gut’ situation. Of course, Jerry Hairston Jr. is no Barry Bonds, though he’d probably hit like him facing George Sherrill an infinite number of times. This brought up Rick Ankiel, whom Riggleman ordered to bunt in an attempt to squeeze the run home. It worked and the Natspos scored their fifth run of the afternoon.
Peter Moylan pitched the 8th. After a strikeout, ground-ball single, fielders choice, and walk, Moylan got Ryan Zimmerman to hit a grounder down the third-base line. Chipper tried to glove it but failed and instead punched towards the stands. Ian Desmond, who had reached on the FC, scored the final Nationals run of the afternoon on the play.
Dan Uggla and Alex Gonzalez each added solo shots to bring the Braves’ scoring total up to three. Didn’t matter. The latter went 3/3 with a walk, which I’d wager is fairly rare; it’s a shame it had to come in a losing effort and that it was obscured by Hanson’s poor outing. Every Braves starting position player got on base except Martin Prado, who is now 0-for-the-season with no walks. The Nationals had only three more baserunners than the Braves (10 hits, 5 walks to Atlanta’s 10 hits, 2 walks) and an identical number of extra-base hits (3), but did a better job of clumping their hits together. Atlanta sabotaged themselves with at least three errors (only one of which was actually scored as an error because official scorers are dummies).
It’s too soon to worry about Tommy Hanson, sometimes guys just don’t have it that day. It’s certainly something to monitor, though, because the Braves probably can’t win this division if they don’t have late-2009/early-2010 Tommy Hanson.
For the second game in a row Nate McLouth had one more plate appearance than Jason Heyward, and I just can’t let it go. It’s utterly asinine. Heyward didn’t have a great day, he went 0/3 with a walk, and it probably wouldn’t have mattered if he did. At some point it is going to matter, though, and this foolishness needs to end before then.