Sigh. This is one of those games that proves the old axiom that "you can't win 'em all." After all, sometimes, you've got to give the old guys (Chipper), the catchers (McCann), and the banged-up guys (Heyward) a day off. Sometimes, even excellent hitters will have horrific, 0/5 games (like Martin Prado did today). And sometimes, 40-year-old pitchers working for the fifth time in a week will give up a homer or two, as happened to Takashi Saito in the 10th today.
A lot of people will probably blame this game on Bobby Cox starting "the B team." But three of those guys--David Ross, Melky Cabrera, and Omar Infante--had good games. Sure, maybe Brent Clevlen shouldn't have started over Hinske, but 3 out of 4 isn't bad. The real problem with the offense was actually that the 4 regulars who played got completely shut down: Escobar, McLouth, Glaus, and Prado were a combined 1/18 with 0 BB, 4 K, and 2 DPs (both by Prado).
The Braves mustered very little offense off of Pirates starter Zach Duke (his second straight excellent start). The only run they scored off of Duke was on a David Ross single in the 2nd inning. Even that run was unearned because the man who scored (Yunel Escobar) had reached on an error. Duke gave up some hits but got 3 double plays to help his cause and did not walk anyone. His final line was 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R (0 earned), 0 BB, 5 K, and a 0.286 WPA.
While Duke undoubtedly pitched well, it should be noted that the Braves continue to struggle mightily against lefties. We really need Matt Diaz to come back soon and hit lefties like he has in the past. If Yunel could start hitting, that would help too.
Braves starter Kris Medlen also pitched very well, taking a shutout in to the 6th inning before running out of gas. He gave up 2 runs in that inning as Andrew McCutchen tripled, Steve Pearce hit a sac fly to drive him in, and Ryan Doumit drove in Garrett Jones with an RBI single. Bobby Cox had to go to Jesse Chavez to finish the inning. Still, Medlen's line is pretty decent: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K, and a -0.046 WPA (losing a 1-run lead kills your WPA).
More recap and Awards after the jump.
The Braves tied the game when Eric Hinske hit a mammoth pinch-hit homer off of Evan Meek to start the 8th inning, but would not get another hit for the rest of the game (though they did walk 3 times). In both the 9th and 10th, a Braves hitter struck out with the go-ahead run on 2nd base (Ross in the 9th, Prado in the 10th).
The Braves bullpen pitched well until Saito left a pitch up in the zone to Doumit. Chavez, Jonny Venters, Peter Moylan, and Eric O'Flaherty all pitched pretty decently. Even Saito got the first 2 men he faced on a strikeout and a foul popup. But playing on the road in the late innings, you're always 1 pitch away from losing, and that eventually came back to bite the Braves.
Still, we won another series. The Phillies lost, too, so we're only 3.5 out of first. We've got an off day tomorrow before a big series in Florida. Heyward (who did not start today due to a sore thumb but drew a walk as a pinch-hitter) should be good to go then. If we can win that series, we'll really be in good shape.
Co-MVPs: Duke (stat line above) and Doumit-- 3/5, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI, and a whopping 0.635 WPA
LVPs: So many to choose from. Saito, obviously-- 0.2 IP, R, K, with a -0.364 WPA; and Prado-- 0/5, K, 2 GIDP, -0.248 WPA; Glaus, McLouth, Clevlen, and Escobar were also all "deserving."
MVPILEs: Hinske-- game-tying pinch-hit homer, 0.250 WPA; and the bullpen except for Saito-- 3.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB (it was intentional), 3 K, and 1 HBP
Clutch Play: Doumit's homer, obviously (0.465 WPA)
Unclutch Plays: The bottom 5 WPA plays were all by Braves hitters, but the 2 worst were the Ross and Prado strikeouts to end the 9th and 10th innings (-0.103 and -0.114 WPA, respectively).