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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Atlanta Halts AT&T Jinx, Heyward Helps Power Comeback and Win


Derek Lowe lost control of his pitches yesterday, but made it through his start relatively unscathed. Jason Heyward helped pick him up with a home run and the Braves piled on runs with the aid of Giants miscues to win the game 7-2.

The first three innings featured the Giants and Braves trading goose eggs. Atlanta left three runners on base in the first two innings and the Giants left the bases loaded in the third.

San Francisco struck first when Juan Uribe executed a successful hit-and-run with one out, driving in Aubrey Huff from third base. Uribe was thrown out trying to steal and Eli Whiteside struck out to end the inning.

After leaving seven runners on base through four, the Braves got on the board when Jason Heyward hit a letter-high fastball over the wall in left for his second career home run. That tied the game and Derek Lowe made it hold up despite losing control of his pitches. Sandoval grounded to second to start the inning, but Glaus couldn't handle the throw. Lowe then walked Huff on six pitches. He got Mark DeRosa to ground to Prado to start a 5-4-3 double, but then he lost control again and was forced to walk Uribe to load the bases. On the second pitch to Eli Whiteside, he hit a hard grounder that Escobar slid to corral and he spun and fired to Glaus at first. Whiteside slid headfirst into the base but was out by about a step as Glaus picked the ball out of the dirt.

The Braves opened the floodgates in their next three frames, scoring six runs with the aid of four walks, an error, and four wild pitches. Troy Glaus was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run and Jason Heyward had an RBI single to bring home the third run. Infante scored on a wild pitch in the eighth and singled home Eric Hinske in the ninth. Hinske had a pinch-hit double, which drove in Heyward, and reached third on a balk, after which he scored.

Peter Moylan and Takashi Saito each pitched a scoreless inning, with Saito striking out two batters. Jesse Chavez came on to pitch with a 7-1 lead and allowed a walk and two singles, which scored a run, but he got a double play to end the ball game.

My Commentary: Lowe set a career-high in walks in a game with seven (two intentional). He became the 33rd Braves pitcher in recorded baseball history to be credited with a victory and have seven or more walks in his stint. The franchise record is 11, set by Jimmy Freeman on a complete-game effort on September 1, 1972 against the Phillies. The Braves won the game 11-5.

It was almost pathetic to see Lowe lose control of his pitches like he did. To his credit, he kept it up and was able to get out of the sixth inning thanks to that amazing Escobar play and Glaus dig. The advanced fielding metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating and Fielding Runs Above Average may not show it, but I do believe that Escobar is an above-average fielding shortstop at best.

Jason Heyward's home run shows exactly what kind of power he has. If he can continue to be consistent, there's no doubt in my mind that he'll win the NL Rookie of the Year, even if Stephen Strasburg comes up in the middle of the season.

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