Atlanta came into tonight's game looking to do two things: Get Tommy Hanson back on track and to find a way to finally start hitting the baseball. Consider both missions accomplished.
Atlanta got the offense going early, as Martin Prado singled with two outs in the third inning. Pittsburgh Nate made his monthly appearance, doubling to right, scoring Prado. Chipper Jones then followed with a backside single to left that brought McLouth and his blonde highlights around from second to score to make it 2-0.
After Dan Uggla popped out to begin the fourth inning, Jason Heyward strolled to the plate and deposited a Chris Volstad fastball deep over the center field wall. That homer in the fourth, an absolute no doubter, was Heyward's third home run of the year already.
The Braves weren't done offensively just yet, as Prado doubled to start the fifth inning. Fredi Gonzalez then called for the no out sacrifice bunt from Nate McLouth, which moved Prado over to third. Chipper then lined out to left, driving in Prado to give Atlanta a 4-0 lead. The Braves finally chased Volstad from the game when Brian McCann connected for his first home run (and first extra-base hit) of 2011 to give the Braves a 5-0 lead.
All that offense was more than enough for Tommy Hanson, who after struggling in his first two starts of the year, threw an absolute gem against the Marlins. Concerns about a dip in his velocity were put away in the first inning, as Hanson touched 95 on the radar gun as he struck out Hanley Ramirez to end the first inning.
Hanson cruised through a relatively easy seven innings, commanding his fastball all over the strike zone and showing renewed confidence in his slider and using his change-up effectively. After recording only three strikeouts combined in his first two outings, Hanson struck out five Marlins while only walking two. This was the Tommy Hanson that has Braves fans dreaming of a dominant, top of the rotation arm with seven innings of shutout ball, with his fastball sitting 91-95 all night long.
Braves pitching also got a huge assist from the defense tonight as Alex Gonzalez made spectacular play after spectacular play out at shortstop, while his battery mate Dan Uggla flashed some great leather as well, including a couple of great turns on double plays. Even the much maligned Nate McLouth got in on the action, showing excellent range in snagging a deep liner to center off the bat of Logan Morrison. Freddie Freeman continued his great play over at first, making a great scoop of an Alex Gonzalez throw in the sixth inning.
Atlanta improves to 5-6 on the season.
WP: Tommy Hanson (1-2)
7 IP, 4 H, 0R, 5 K's, 2 BB
LP: Chris Volstad (0-1)
4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 K's, 2BB
Things to note:
-Chipper Jones' two rbi's have him one away from 1,500 for his career
-Every hitter in the lineup tonight for the Braves had at least one hit, and Freddie Freeman carries a five game hitting streak into tomorrow's game.
-Game 2 of the series is tomorrow night at 7:10 ET, with the Marlins Josh Johnson facing Atlanta's Tim Hudson.