Bullpen Coalition Shines as Braves top Phillies, 4-1

Through 5 innings, this game looked like the same old story. Braves starter pitches decently but leaves trailing 1-0? Check. No hits from Braves' position players? Check. Frustrating double plays? Check. Seven men left on base (all by Troy Glaus!)? Check.

From there, though, the script reversed itself. In the 6th inning, the Braves broke through against Phillies starter Joe Blanton. Chipper Jones led off with an infield hit, then moved to second on a solid single by Brian McCann. One batter later, Eric Hinske roped a double off the right-field wall, tying the game at 1. Melky Cabrera followed with a solid RBI single to put the Braves in front (that's right--2 clutch hits in one inning!). Omar Infante added on with a sac fly to give the Braves a 3-1 lead.

That would be Blanton's last inning. His final line: 6 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 3 K, and a -0.089 WPA. Troy Glaus saved himself from goat-dom by singling in a run off Danys Baez in the 9th. Had he made an out there, he would have left 11 men on base in the game, which seems like it would have been a record.

(Bullpen props and Awards after the jump...)

Though the Braves' offense wasn't great tonight, the 4 runs they provided would more than enough for the Braves' pitchers. This was a great showing by the bullpen. Kris Medlen did an admirable job in the spot start, making it through 4.1 innings and giving up only 1 run. He worked around 9 hits but did not walk anyone.

Medlen was followed by 6 Braves relievers, nearly all of whom pitched great. Eric O'Flaherty got Medlen out of a jam in the 5th. Craig Kimbrel was wild, walking 2 of the 3 batters he faced in the 6th, but Peter Moylan got a huge double play to end the threat. In the 7th, it was Moylan's turn to be saved, as he put the tying runs on 2nd and 3rd with 2 out. Jonny Venters came in and got Ryan Howard to fly out to end the inning (Howard is already 0/3 off Venters).

Takashi Saito blew away the Phillies in the 8th, striking out 2 (including Jayson Werth). Finally, Billy Wagner closed out the win with a 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout of Chase Utley. All in all, it was a great game for our bullpen, who continue to show that they are this team's greatest strength. For anyone who lived through the Chris Reitsma era, this bullpen is a godsend. Frank Wren (and the farm system) deserve tons of credit for acquiring and developing so many solid-to-dominant relievers.

It's great to know that the Braves won't be swept in this series. With a good effort tomorrow, we can even take the series and even up the road trip at 3-3. By the way, for all the moaning that's been going on, the Braves have won 5 of 8. I know 3 of those wins were against the Astros, but still. Once Heyward and Escobar come back, who knows what might happen?

Awards

MVPs: The Braves' bullpen-- 4.2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 4 BB, 3 K, and a combined 0.357 WPA (0.420 if you don't count Kimbrel) 

Honorable Mention MVPs: Kris Medlen-- 4.1 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K, and a 0.089 WPA pitching, and 1/2 with a 0.040 WPA hitting; Eric Hinske-- 1/3, BB, RBI double, R, and a 0.096 WPA; also Mac and Chipper-- each 1/3 with 2 BBs and a run.

LVP: Wilson Valdez-- 0/4, K, GIDP, and a -0.244 WPA

MVPILE (MVP in a losing effort): Shane Victorino-- 1/4, RBI, BB, SB, and 0.086 WPA

Clutch plays (more than 1!): Hinske's RBI double (0.177 WPA) and Moylan getting Valdez to GIDP to end the 6th (0.141 WPA)

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