Bottom Of The Order Shines As Braves Top Royals, 6-4

That was just a good solid win. Nothing spectacular happened--Derek Lowe pitched just OK, the bullpen gave up a run, nobody homered, and so on. Still, the Braves' offense put 6 runs on the board and the pitching kept the Royals mostly in check. The bottom line is that these are the kinds of games the Braves need to win--and they've been winning them lately.

On offense, the heart of the order didn't do much aside from a Chipper Jones, who had a sac fly, an RBI single, and a walk. Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, and Troy Glaus combined to go 0/11 with a walk and 4 strikeouts. I think that most teams would struggle to score when 3 of their best hitters go hitless, but we managed to put 6 runs on the board. The 6-9 hitters (Eric Hinske, Yunel Escobar, Melky Cabrera, and Lowe) went 6/12 with 2 walks, 3 RBIs, and all 6 runs. The lineup balance on this team right now is pretty sweet.

The Braves kicked off the scoring in style in the 2nd inning on another squeeze bunt, this time courtesy of Derek Lowe. They added another run in that inning when Yunel Escobar scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0. That was one of 2 wild pitches in the inning from Royals starter Brian Bannister.

Lowe couldn't hold the lead for long, though. The Royals got on the board in the 3rd when Scott Podsednik walked with 2 out, stole second, and scored on a Jason Kendall single. They tied it up in the 4th on a towering home run from Billy Butler that just cleared the center field fence.

Fortunately for Lowe, the Braves wasted no time in bailing him out (although Lowe himself did part of the bailing). In the Braves' half of the 4th, the first 4 hitters reached base: a walk from Eric Hinske, a single from Yunel Escobar, an RBI double from Melky Cabrera, and an RBI single from Lowe*. That left the Braves with runners on first and third and nobody out. Unfortunately, both Martin Prado (popup to left) and Jason Heyward (strikeout) failed to score the runner from 3rd. That just set up the Old Man, though, as Chipper drilled a single to right to finally get the run home.

That fourth-inning rally effectively ended Bannister's night. His final line was an ugly one: 4 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 2 K, and a -0.396 WPA.

The Braves added a run in the 6th off of Kanekoa Texeira. Chipper drove in Melky Cabrera with a sac fly.

Despite only having a pitch count in the 80s, Lowe seemed to tire quickly. After giving up a run on 3 singles in the 7th inning, Bobby pulled him in favor of Eric O'Flaherty (remember him?), who proceeded to get 2 outs in 4 pitches to clean up Lowe's mess. Lowe's final line was 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 12/21 ground balls (57%) and a -0.045 WPA. It wasn't quite a DerekLoweWin, but I'm sure he'll take it anyway.

The Royals closed to within 6-4 when Peter Moylan allowed a runner of O'Flaherty's to score in the 8th, but Moylan escaped further damage and Billy Wagner struck out 2 in a hitless 9th to close out the victory.

Awards

MVP
Melky-- 3/4, 2B, RBI, 2 R, 0.178 WPA

Honorable Mention
Yunel-- 1/3, BB, 2 R, 0.211 WPA
Chipper-- 1/2, BB, SF, 2 RBI, 0.073 WPA
Hinske-- 1/3, BB, 2 R, 0.079 WPA
Lowe-- decent pitching + 1/2, squeeze bunt, 2 RBI, and 0.070 WPA as a hitter
Prado-- 2/5, 2B, 0.008 WPA, and now MLB's hits leader!

LVPs
Bannister
Yuniesky Betancourt-- 0/4, K, -0.097 WPA (You should probably get used to seeing his name here...)

MVP in a Losing Effort
Butler-- 1/3, BB, HR, R, RBI, 0.118 WPA

Clutch Plays
Butler's homer to tie it at 2 in the 4th (0.137 WPA)
Yunel's single in the 4th (0.115 WPA) and Melky's RBI double that followed it (0.108 WPA)

Unclutch Plays
GIDPs from Royals hitters-- Alberto Callaspo in the 8th (-0.75 WPA) and Mike Aviles in the 4th (-0.61 WPA)

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