Kawakami, Braves Blow Big Lead, Still Win 8-5

This game couldn't have started much better, as Kenshin Kawakami had a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the first, and the Braves rocked Kyle Davies for 4 runs in the bottom half. Chipper Jones and Omar infante each had 2-RBI doubles in that inning.

Unfortunately, Kawakami apparently couldn't stand the prosperity of 4 whole runs, because he immediately fell apart. On the first play of the top of the second, he booted a grounder to allow Jose Guillen to reach. He then gave up singles to that noted murderer's row of Alberto Callaspo, Brayan Pena, and Chris Getz. The latter two drove in runs, cutting the Royals' deficit in half.

In the top of the third, the Royals' offense picked up right where it left off, getting back-to-back-to-back singles from Mike Aviles, Billy Butler, and Jose Guillen. Guillen's single drove in the third run of the game and knocked out Kawakami. Bobby Cox brought on Christhian Martinez, who promptly allowed both baserunners to score, putting the Braves behind 5-4.

I don't have confirmation on this, but I suspect that either Kawakami's foot blister or back problems returned. He clearly wasn't right after the first inning. Regardless of whether he was hurt, it was sad to see him blow such a golden opportunity for his first win. KK's final line was depressing: 2 IP, 6 H, 5 R (4 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 7 line drives out of 11 balls in play, and a -0.277 WPA.

Royals' starter Kyle Davies was not any better. He struggled with his control throughout, walking 7 Braves batters. Unfortunately, the Braves couldn't get any of those runners home after the first inning. They left 2 runners on in both the 2nd and 3rd. In the 5th, Davies walked 2 of the first 3 batters, prompting Ned Yost to replace him. Victor Marte came on and walked another man but got Brooks Conrad to fly out with the bases loaded to end the inning. Davies' final line was 4.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 7 BB, 6 K, and a -0.229 WPA.

After that, it was a battle of the bullpens. Martinez settled down after his rough first inning, retiring the last 6 men he faced. Eric O'Flaherty and Peter Moylan worked scoreless innings in the 6th and 7th, respectively. Craig Kimbrel worked around a bases-loaded, none-out jam created by his own wildness (an error and two walks) to somehow record a scoreless 8th.

The Braves tied it on a Chipper Jones double off of Kyle Farnsworth in the 6th. Then, in the bottom of the 8th, they put together an epic 2-out rally off of Blake Wood. After Jason Heyward grounded into a double play to clear the bases, Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus both walked. Eric Hinske doubled both of them in. Finally, Melky Cabrera singled in Hinske, giving the Braves a comfortable 8-5 lead.

Billy Wagner struck out 2 in a scoreless 9th to record his 398th career save. Kimbrel got his second major-league win despite his shaky inning.

The Braves are now 2.5 games up on the Mets, who were shut out by the Yankees today. The Phillies dropped to 5.5 games back after losing to the Twins. The sweep of the Royals is the Braves' 4th in their past 5 home series (they have won 14 of 15 at home). In other words, pretty much all of the news is good news for Braves fans. What a great way to reward all of the Braves' dads (and the rest of us, too)!

Awards

MVP
Chipper-- 2/3, 2 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, SB, and a masterful 0.418 WPA (What a stat line that is. He's looked as good as ever since the retirement talk broke out... Coincidence?)

Honorable Mention
Hinske-- 2/5, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K, 0.213 WPA
The Braves' bullpen-- 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K, and a combined 0.264 WPA
Troy Glaus-- 0/1, 4 BB, 2 R, and a 0.093 WPA
Omar Infante (in his return to the lineup)-- 2/5, 2B, 2 RBI, K, and a 0.079 WPA

LVP
Blake Wood-- 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 0 K, and a -0.373 WPA

MVP in a Losing Effort
Chris Getz-- 2/4, 2B, 2 RBI, K, 0.277 WPA

Clutch Plays
Hinske's 2-run double to break the 5-5 tie in the 8th (0.359 WPA)
Chipper's two doubles; driving in 2 in the first (0.152 WPA) and 1 in the sixth (0.194 WPA)

Unclutch Plays
The three outs made by the Royals in the 8th inning after loading the bases with none out were all pretty unclutch:
Mike Aviles striking out with 1 out (-0.145 WPA), Billy Butler popping up to short with 2 out (-0.137), and David DeJesus striking out with no outs (-0.111)

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