Braves lose first game of the season
Thursday, April 8, 2010
CHICAGO 2 ATLANTA 0
The Cubs hit two solo home runs off Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson early in the game and the runs held up. Randy Wells pitched six scoreless innings for Chicago, while the Braves left 21 runners on base.
Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones left the game in the fourth inning with what was described as a sore right side. After the game the Braves' media relations director Brad Hainje confirmed the injury was a strained right oblique. Jones is expected to be out 2-3 games and could miss the series in San Francisco.
Wells dominates in Atlanta again
For the second straight season, Wells dominated the Braves in Atlanta. Last year Wells had a no-hitter into the seventh inning and allowed only two runs over seven innings. Thursday night Wells allowed six hits, walked two, and struck out one.
"We had our chances," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "Wells pitched good. He's tough to hit at. We've never had a lot of luck with that guy. We doubled them in hits tonight, but they got the ball out of the ballpark twice."
"Wells was filthy tonight," catcher Brian McCann said. "He kept everybody off-balance. He knows what he's doing out there. He just commanded both sides of the zone and didn't give in. His split was filthy tonight. I had a hard time picking the split up and making the difference between the split and the fastball. When you do that, you're going to get some outs."
Hanson pitches well, but takes the loss
Hanson gave up the two home run balls, one to rookie Tyler Colvin in the second inning, and then one to Marlon Byrd in the fourth inning.
"Two-seamer that didn't move and stayed down the middle (to Colvin),"Hanson explained. "Then the slider that Byrd hit just stayed in the middle of the plate. I felt really good. My arm felt great. I just made a couple of mistakes, and they made me pay."
Hanson did a good job keeping the ball in the ballpark last year, as he gave up only 10 home runs all season in 21 starts. Overall Thursday Hanson allowed the two runs on four hits, with three walks, and seven strikeouts.
"Tommy was fine," said Cox. "He just threw way too many pitches. He was off-target a little bit too much. He really wasn't that sharp, but he pitched great. We pitched good enough tonight to win the ballgame."
"Everything felt really good," Hanson said. "A lot of times when I feel too good is when I start pulling those fastballs away. I think maybe today was one of those days where I might have felt too good. My body and my arm and everything felt great."
"I feel ok with this start, but I'm not happy with it," Hanson continued. "I wish I could have had a little bit better command of my pitches and been able to make pitches when I needed to. But I was excited to get out there with the first game. Everything just felt really light. It didn't seem they were on my fastball too much."
Hanson hit 97 and 98 mph on the stadium radar gun early in the game. McCann said Hanson could crank up the velocity when needed.
"He's got that in him," catcher Brian McCann said. "It's was his first start of the season, and everybody's excited. He's got that in the tank if he needs it. That's why he's so effective. He can pitch at 94 and take something off. When he needs 97 he can get that too. He pitched really good tonight. We just didn't swing the bats."
The Bullpen continues its dominance
Atlanta's bullpen pitched 3.2 more scoreless innings Thursday, increasing the total to 10.2 scoreless innings for the three-game series.
Both Eric O'Flaherty and Jesse Chavez got their first action of the season. O'Flaherty pitched 1.2 innings and did not allow a hit. Chavez pitched two perfect innings and had two strikeouts.
"The bullpen was phenomenal again," Cox said.
"We got seven guys that can come in at any point in the game and do the job," McCann added.
Hinske's almost home run
In the ninth inning with two men on and one out, pinch-hitter Eric Hinske just missed a three-run walk-off home run. Hinske drove a ball to deep center field that was caught on the warning track by Marlon Byrd.
"That's what you're trying to do as a pinch hitter – get a pitch to hit," Hinske said. "I got into a good count, and he threw a fastball, and I hit it good. I think it might have had a chance if it were yesterday or the day before, with the warm weather, it was flying a little better."
"Yeah, everybody thought it was gone," Cox said. "I don't know if the wind changed direction cause it was flying to right field (earlier). All those little pop-ups were chasing Jason (Heyward) right to the track. So something changed."
Braves still win the series
While the players were disappointed to not get the sweep of the Cubs, there was still a lot of happiness that the team won two out of three.
"We won the series," Cox said. "We win two out of three, we'll win the pennant – by a long margin."
"It's always good to start out with two wins," Hanson said. "It was a tough one today, but it was a good series. We all feel confident. Everybody feel's real good about out team. Everybody feels real good about our chances. We just need to keep going out and playing hard and keep doing what we're doing."
The long trip
The Braves left Turner Field after the game and headed to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport for the long flight to San Francisco. They were not expected to arrive until 4:30 am ET. First pitch for Friday's game is 4:35 pm ET.
"It's going to be a long one," McCann said of the flight.
McCann wasn't sure if he'd start Friday's game, but don't bet on it.
Will Heyward be in the three-hole on Friday?
With Jones out of the lineup, will Bobby Cox move Jason Heyward to the third spot in the batting order? Cox could insert Hinske at third base and also into the third spot, or he could move Heyward up to have a more threat in front of Troy Glaus. The Giants are pitching a left-hander, so right-handed hitting Omar Infante may be in at third base instead of Hinske.
Matt Diaz could see his first start of the season in the outfield, as Cox could rest lefty-hitting Nate McLouth. And after the long flight to San Francisco, don't expect Cox to play McCann in a day game after a night game. David Ross could start behind the plate. So Friday's lineup could be drastically different than it was for the first three games of the season.
Tim Hudson makes his 2010 debut for the Braves against San Francisco left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. Hudson is 4-4 in 11 career starts against the Giants, with a 4.03 ERA.
San Francisco is 3-0 on the season after sweeping the Houston Astros. They are the only undefeated team left in baseball. Friday will be the Giants' home opener.
The game will be televised on Fox Sports South with Chip Caray and Joe Simpson calling the action from AT&T Park.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Atlanta Baseball Show. Shanks writes a weekly column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.