The Old Man has been making good contact lately, and now he's back where he belongs--in 1st place.
What a great way to end an phenomenal month of Braves baseball--by walloping the rival Phillies to take over 1st place! That makes 6 straight wins for the Bravos, and a 16-4 record in their last 20 games. The Phillies have been going in the other direction; they have now lost 7 of their last 9 games.
The last time the Braves were in first place this late in the season was 2005, which not coincidentally was also the last time they won the division. Obviously there's still a lot of season left and the Phillies (not to mention the rest of the division) are far from buried, but the signs are all positive right now. After that 9-game losing streak, did anyone think (even the optimists) that we'd be in first place by the end of May?
As for the game, Tommy Hanson looked extremely shaky in the first 2 innings. He threw a ton of pitches and had particular trouble with his fastball, which was consistently up in the zone. He escaped both innings unscathed however, thanks to two double plays. After that, he settled in and pitched very well, even making it into the seventh inning. His final line was: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 2 K, and a 0.164 WPA.
Tommy was pulled in the 7th after giving up a double to Raul Ibanez. Even though the Braves had a 6-run lead at the time, Bobby Cox brought in Peter Moylan. Let's just say that move didn't work out really well. Moylan gave up 3 straight doubles, each of them scoring a run, and cutting the lead in half. Fortunately, Bobby brought in Jonny Venters, who (after hitting the first batter), got out of the inning, and the Phillies did not threaten again.
On the hitting side, the Braves had no trouble scoring off the Phillies pitchers today despite a rare 0/5 night from Jason Heyward. They jumped all over Joe Blanton from the get-go. In the first inning, Chipper Jones hit his first homer since April 16th, a 2-run shot. Then, after Ross Gload dropped a deep fly ball by Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske singled Glaus in to make it 3-0. Gload was inexplicably playing right in place of Jayson Werth, and even more inexplicably was leading off.
The Braves added 3 more in the 3rd off of Blanton. The first run scored when Ryan Howard whiffed on an Eric Hinske grounder down the line. Yunel Escobar (who looked great for the second straight game) then laced a ball into the left-center gap, scoring 2. He was thrown out at second, but got a great ovation from the crowd anyway*. Blanton's final line was 6 IP, 8 H, 6 R (4 ER), 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K, 7 line drives, and a -0.328 WPA.
* The crowd, by the way, was amazing all game--42,000+ and very into the game.
After the Philies cut the lead to 6-3, the Braves offense immediately went to work on reliever Chad Durbin. After Chipper singled to start the 7th, McCann worked an epic walk on a 10-pitch at-bat. That sat up a 3-run bomb from the Glausosaur. The homer was his 8th, by the way, and the RBIs his 35th, 36th, and 37th. The man really knows how to shut up his haters, doesn't he?
All in all, it was another complete victory for the Braves. Gritty pitching, great hitting, and solid defense. Let's hope they can keep it going and sweep the Phillies!
Awards after the jump.
Chipper-- 2/4, HR, 2 RBI, 0.178 WPA
Hanson (pitching line above)-- Tommy also had 2 hits, as many as he had in his career coming into today.
Glaus-- 2/4, 3 RBI, 3 R, K, 0.083 WPA
Hinske-- 1/3, 2 RBI, R, 0.119 WPA
Escobar-- 2/4, 2 RBI, 0.016 WPA
Blanton (stat line above)
Gload-- 0/3, HBP, error, -0.048 WPA
Howard-- 0/4, GIDP, K, error, -0.128 WPA
MVP in a losing effort:
Raul Ibanez-- 1/3, 2B, RBI, R, BB, 0.037 WPA
Chipper's homer (0.184 WPA)
Howard's GIDP with a runner on 3B to end the 1st (-0.116 WPA)