By Tara Rowe
The Braves came into the series with a bad taste in their mouth after splitting a 4-game series with the Pirates at Turner Field. They had gone 7-for-39 with runners in scoring position in that series. The Braves had lost Jason Heyward for a few games to an oblique injury, were continuing to manage the availability of Chipper Jones as best they could, and were coming up on a start from young Randall Delgado who had struggled in his previous outing. A 3-game series with the Phillies could have turned everything around; instead, the Braves head to Denver to face the Rockies having lost 4 of their last 7 games.
Game 1: Beachy/Hamels
Brandon Beachy is showing the baseball world that his remarkable rookie season was no fluke.
Pitching opposite Cole Hamels Tuesday, Beachy allowed only 2 runs in 7 innings pitched.
Likewise, Hamels held the Braves to just 2 runs, while striking out 6. Atlanta continued to struggle with runners in scoring position going 1-for-6.
Game 2: Hanson/Halladay
In the most exciting game of the season thus far, the Braves rallied twice and won with a walk-off by Chipper Jones. As Chipper said afterward, the game “takes the cake as far as his career”.
When the fifth inning began, it was beginning to look as if the Braves were about to be shutout by Roy Halladay and the Phillies. Tommy Hanson had given up 4 runs, all of them in the 4th inning, and Roy Halladay had shutdown the Braves’ offense. But things changed rapidly in the 5th inning, again in the 6th inning, the 7th inning, the 8th…
The Braves rallied for 6 runs, knocking Roy Halladay out of the game and then rallied again for 4 runs after Carlos Ruiz belted a 3-run blast in response to a grand slam from Brian McCann.
Wednesday’s 11-inning slugfest included a combined 28 runs, 36 hits, 1 grand slam, 3 blown saves and 1 walk-off homer.
And the winning pitcher? Chad Durbin.
Nights like Wednesday don’t come around very often. A game that was looking to be a disappointing shutout turned into what may be one of the most exciting games in recent Braves history.
Game 3: Delgado/Blanton
Young Randall Delgado took the mound hoping to get his game back on track after a rough outing against Pittsburgh marred by terrible fastball command and inconsistent offspeed pitches.
After giving up back-to-back singles and back-to-back sacrifices, the Phillies scratched out a run against Delgado. Delgado then settled in, retiring the next 17 batters in order.
While Delgado was pitching one of the best games the Braves have seen from the young right-hander, Joe Blanton limited the Braves to 3 hits. Delgado gave up 6 hits, 2 earned runs (including a home run to Nix in the 7th inning), struck out 5, and did not allow a hitter a base on balls in a career high 8 innings pitched. Unfortunately, the Braves’ bats let down Delgado and his superb outing did not result in a win.
Like in Beachy’s Tuesday outing, the bullpen gave up 2 runs once Delgado exited the game.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN…
Friday: Hudson (1-0, 3.60) vs. Moscoso (0-1, 10.80)
Saturday: Minor (2-2, 4.68) vs. Moyer (1-2, 3.14)
Sunday: Beachy (2-1, 1.38) vs. Nicasio (2-0, 4.40)
Keeping runners off the bases is key at Coors Field where the long ball is always a factor. Keeping the ball down to get outs via the fly out will be important to Hudson’s success. Hudson is 0-2 with a 7.77 ERA in 4 starts at Coors Field. If the Braves can get to Moscoso early and often, this match up and Hudson’s new and improved back may get Huddy that long sought after win in Denver.
The Key for Minor is getting back to his game, finding his command and controlling his pitches. Minor needs to settle in against Father Time and regain the confidence he lost in his last outing.
The Braves will need to contain Carlos Gonzalez who is off to a great start with a .310 average. “CarGo” is hitting a staggering .370 with 5 of his 7 home runs and 18 of his 23 RBIs at home.
Though much has been said about the bullpen, it is worth repeating that the Braves’ ‘pen is going to have to shutdown games. With the recent struggles of Eric O’Flaherty, the 2 runs surrendered by Venters in relief of Beachy Tuesday night, and the 2 runs allowed by Livan Hernandez following Delgado’s gem, it’s hard to believe that the most solid outing from the bullpen came from Chad Durbin in the Wednesday night slugfest that ended with Chipper’s walk-off. This isn’t the lights-out bullpen we grew accustomed to seeing shut the door on teams last season. Improvement is needed.
The Rockies host the Braves at Coors Field beginning tonight at 8:40 (EST).