It was looking pretty bleak for the Braves heading into the eighth inning. Cubs starter Ryan Dempster had owned the Braves batters through six innings, and then came those killer lefties out the Chicago bullpen. The Cubs left-handed pitchers had owned the Braves in the first game, and with another shutout inning in tonight's game they looked they would repeat that performance, but the Braves had other plans.
Martin Prado barely missed a homerun that would have tied the game off the second Cubs lefty of the night, instead settling for a double. Then the old man Chipper Jones came up to bat, and on a 3-1 pitch he parked a
get-over fastball change-up into the left field seats. That gave Atlanta the one-run lead, and Billy Wagner came on in the ninth inning to strikeout the side for his first save in Braves' uniform.
There was some concern in tonight's game as the Braves had a severe case of the strikeouts. Troy Glaus collected the golden sombrero, striking out four times, and Yunel Escobar, Jason Heyward, and Nate McLouth each picked up two strikeouts. This was in stark contrast to how the team had fared all spring, where they led baseball in walks and on-base percentage, and didn't strikeout a lot.
Jair Jurrjens had one of those Jair Jurrjens games. He pitched good enough to get the win, but the Braves couldn't score enough to send him to the locker room on the winning side. They had their chances to score early in the game. Heyward came through with a rocket-shot double to right field that scored Brian McCann in the second inning that gave the Braves the early lead.
The team loaded the bases with only one out in the third inning, but Glaus and Escobar struck out and the Braves came up empty. That failure came back to haunt the team as Jurrjens couldn't escape his bases loaded situation unscathed, and in the meantime Ryan Dempster settled down to retire 12 of the last 13 batters he faced, including seven strikeouts.
All the Braves batters seemed to be swinging at just about anything above the belt, and Escobar did his best Francoeur imitation by flailing at outside breaking balls all night. I wonder if the free-hitting and easy-hit ways of opening day got in their heads a bit and they were more inclined to go up there swinging. Of course, Ryan Dempster did have some nasty nasty stuff on the night, so perhaps we can excuse some of the swings and misses.
But in the end Dempster's stellar start didn't matter, and the Braves elder statesmen, Chipper Jones, put the team on his shoulders in a situation where they needed him to come through in a big way. It was good to get a win on a night when we had some miscues that allowed the lead to slip away and on a night when we were dominated by the opposing pitchers 90% of the time.
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FYI, the extra game threads were simply removed from the front page, but are still available if you search for them. Just enter in the text for game thread that does appear and the search should return the other two.