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(Almost) Gant Touch This: Pitching Mows Down Mets, 5-1

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Some vindication for John Gant as he largely breezed through a good team's lineup en route to his first career win, while the Braves made the most of their scoring chances.

Sadly, I was unable to adapt the lyrics from "U Can't Touch This" into anything baseball-related.
Sadly, I was unable to adapt the lyrics from "U Can't Touch This" into anything baseball-related.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

John Gant was drafted by the Mets in June 2011. Five years later, he shut down their lineup at Citi Field, earning his first career win and effective start in the process. In so doing, he offered yet another glimmer of hope for the Braves in a relative downer of a season, and perhaps reinforced the idea that he would be best served through being used as a consistent starter rather than a human yo-yo or perennial roster filler.

All in all, Gant pitched into the seventh inning (six and two-thirds frames of work to be precise), allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out five. His rockiest frame was actually his first: Curtis Granderson led off the game with a double and scored on two consecutive groundouts. Gant largely cruised from there, going three-up three-down in the second, fourth, and fifth, and not allowing more than one baserunner in the other frames. He was finally pulled from the game after a four-pitch walk to Kelly Johnson (who was traded for him... but last season), leaving the game having made 104 largely successful pitches.

In addition to his results, Gant seemed fairly dialed in. He struggled with his command at times, and wasn’t helped by home plate umpire Mike Winters seeming potentially disinclined to call pitches strikes if they missed their targets, regardless of their ultimate location. He used his fastball, changeup, and curveball to good effect, eliciting swinging strikes when necessary, and was still running his fastball up to 93 miles per hour before leaving the game.

On another night, his great effort might have been wasted due to offensive ineptitude, but luckily, Gant’s teammates picked him up against Matt Harvey. Harvey has had an inconsistent season to date, and wasn’t able to build on a recent stretch of excellent starts, allowing seven hits, two walks, and four runs in six innings. In truth, Harvey actually pitched pretty well, but the Braves managed to sequence hits and find holes effectively enough to cut his night short after just 83 pitches after having done a fair bit of damage.

The Braves took the lead in the third, as a two-out tomahawked double by Ender Inciarte brought in Erick Aybar, who drew a leadoff walk. Freddie Freeman then continued his march towards statistical normalization with an opposite-field gap double to score Inciarte. In the fourth, they went right back to work: Jace Peterson doubled (and nearly missed a homer) off of the left-center wall and then scored on a hard-hit grounder by AJ Pierzynski that scorched its way through the shift. The Braves added a fourth run in the following inning, with Mallex Smith drawing a leadoff walk, stealing second, and scoring on a two-out Nick Markakis single. A final leadoff walk was cashed in during the eighth, as Chase d’Arnaud scored on a single by Erick Aybar that was kicked around by Yoenis Cespedes in center field.

In total, the Braves got three leadoff walks and a leadoff double and wasted none of them, which is pretty impressive if you think about it.

The bullpen effort in relief of Gant featured some bend-but-don’t-break tendencies. Chris Withrow, who relieved Gant, allowed a hit and a walk to load the bases, but was bailed out by Hunter Cervenka, who struck out Wilmer Flores on three pitches. In the eighth, Jim Johnson allowed three hits but zero runs, thanks to a double play and a strikeout of Michael Conforto to close out the frame. Arodys Vizcaino, working in a non-save situation, gave a one-out free pass to James Loney, but managed to end the game after Loney shoved Peterson while sliding into second on a Kevin Plawecki ground ball. (The umpires ruled it an automatic double play, even though Plawecki beat the turn to first.)

The victory gives the Braves their first three-game winning streak since the middle of April. The Braves will try to make it four in a row (which would tie their longest such streak of 2016) and win their first road series in June tomorrow. It’s an 8:15 start, and will feature Aaron Blair, looking for a good start, against lefty Steven Matz.