This game had the makings of an absolute ass stomping. Ryan Howard absolutely crushed a Brandon Beachy fastball for a three run homer in the top of the first and the offense forced the young right hander to throw forty pitches in the inning. Beachy left the game before the start of the inning with an oblique strain. The Brave bullpen is stretched pretty thin after a short outing from Tim Hudson and two straight extra inning affairs meaning that young bullpen stalwarts Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel were unavailable. After Beachy’s early exit, the Braves handed the ball to Cristhian Martinez, he of a 4.67 career ERA. Martinez did exactly what you would expect, he threw four innings of perfect baseball while striking out four.
The Braves are officially a pain in the ass. A game that looked like it would be a blowout in the first inning, becomes an absolute dogfight throughout the game. The Phils jumped out to a three run lead after Howard’s blast, Cole Hamels took the hill looking to shut down the Braves after actually being afforded some run support. Hamels allowed one run in the first after a Prado single, a throwing error on a bunt attempt and a Chipper Jones grounder through the left side of the infield made the score 3-1. Hamels worked out of the jam, mitigating the damage with a pair of his seven strikeouts.
The Braves pulled even with the Phils in the bottom of the fifth inning when Hamels could not handle the right handed hitting bottom of the Braves line-up. Alex Gonzalez (who is fast becoming my least favorite Brave) singled followed by a double from random player/former Cardinal Joe Mather. Remember when I talked about Cristhian Martinez shutting the offense down for four innings? Well he also got the game tying hit when he crushed a first pitch fastball past Placido Polanco down the line for a double. Hamels managed his way out of trouble again, only to run into another jam in the sixth. With Alex Gonzalez and Joe Mather did exactly what they did in the previous inning giving the Braves men on second and third with two outs. Hamels gave the lead to the Braves for the first time in the game by uncorking a wild pitch allowing Gonzalez to score and Mather to move into scoring position.
There are times when Philadelphia sports fans assume that only bad things happen to their favorite teams. The referees/officials are usually at the core of the multiple conspiracy theories against Philadelphia. Well people, we got one back tonight. Jimmy Rollins stroked a double in the right field corner. Shane Victorino appeared to watch strike three as Brian McCann and Eric O’Flaherty exited the field. The pitch was called a ball and Shane tied the game later in the at bat. If that happened to the Phillies, I probably would have made a quip about damaging an inanimate object irreparably. Tie game.
The Braves were given ample opportunity to regain the lead in the seventh with J.C. Romero on the mound. Romero loaded the bases with a double an intentional walk and a more traditional form of free pass. He gave way to rookie Michael Stutes to face right hander Dan Uggla. Stutes struck him out after Uggla hit a four ball about 450 feet. Stutes was replaced by Antonio Bastardo who fell behind Freddy Freeman 3-0. Bastardo also got the strikeout. If you add in the scoreless eighth inning hurled by Vance Worley, the young bullpen arms acquitted themselves very well tonight. Not only that, they pitched well enough to avoid Charlie calling upon Baez.
O’Flaherty is a left handed specialist. He is the type of pitcher that is brought in for the specific purpose of getting out left handers. He gave up a double to Howard and an RBI single to Raul Ibanez and earned himself a loss.
Ryan Madson is now 5-5 in save opportunities after he pitched around a walk to Chipper Jones to shut the Braves down in the ninth with a final score of 5-4. I do not think that any of us are in any hurry to see Brad Lidge come off the disabled list. This was a good win tonight. The kind that starts with a homer from Howard and ends with a strikeout from Uggla. Good times.
Tomorrow Blanton the undefeated Jair Jurrjens in an afternoon game. Lets hope that the Phils can solve the right hander as he has been fantastic thus far this year and has pitched well against the Phils in his career.