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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Chipper Authors Comeback, Braves Win First Series


Ryan Dempster and Sean Marshall shut the Braves down. John Grabow did not. With one out and Martin Prado on second, Chipper Jones smacked a home run to left-center field to give the Braves the lead and an eventual 3-2 victory.

The road to the final score was paved by pitching. Both starters, the Braves' Jair Jurrjens and the Cubs' Dempster, allowed just three hits and two walks in their stints.

However, the Braves struck first in the second inning.

With Brian McCann on first base and one out, Yunel Escobar swung and missed on a botched hit-and-run. McCann would have been tagged out had shortstop Mike Fontenot not lost control of the baseball. This assisted Jason Heyward, who smacked a double down the right field line, scoring McCann and giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.

Jair Jurrjens allowed just two hits and no runs into the fifth inning. After Byrd walked, Soriano grounded into a fielders choice as he appeared to beat the throw to first. Replays showed he was out by a half-step, but the inning continued.

Mike Fontenot fouled off some pitches before getting a single, moving Soriano to third base. Geovany Soto then was walked as Jurrjens again couldn't find the strike zone. Dempster then hit a ball that handcuffed first baseman Troy Glaus as he tried to backhand it; that error scored a run. Ryan Theriot then lifted a sacrifice fly to center to give the Cubs the lead.

In the meantime, the Braves hadn't gotten a batter on base since the third inning and were held in check as they struggled to hit Dempster's pitches. The Cubs' former closer racked up four straight strikeouts at one point, finishing with nine in six innings. Sean Marshall, who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings in the series opener, struck out two batters himself.

Long reliever Kris Medlen came on in relief of Jurrjens in the sixth inning after the starter threw 94 pitches. Medlen allowed just two singles in two innings of work. He was helped in the sixth by Glaus spearing a liner hit by Marlon Byrd and doubling up Aramis Ramirez.

In the eighth, after allowing a one-out single to Fukudome a stolen base and a walk to Derrek Lee, Braves reliever Peter Moylan got Ramirez to ground to Escobar for a 6-4-3 double play.

Grabow then came in to pitch for the Cubs. With one out, Martin Prado hit a high fastball to the wall in left-center, just missing a home run. Jones then worked Grabow to a 3-1 count. Grabow then tried a change-up on the outside corner and Chipper belted it into the left-center field stands, giving the lead back to the Braves. Young reliever Esmailin Caridad came on and struck out Troy Glaus, his fourth whiff of the game, to end the frame.

Billy Wagner entered in the ninth and struck out the side, interrupted by an Alfonso Soriano single. It was his first save as a Brave and his first in nearly two years. It also marked the 30th time in Wagner's career that he struck out three batters for a single-inning save.

My Commentary: At least this game showed that this Braves team has the ability to come back in a close game.

Melky Cabrera doesn't seem over-matched, but he's pulling his best post-6-for-6 Willie Harris impersonation in the first two games. Then again, everyone pulled that off against Dempster tonight (at least from the third inning forward).

Martin Prado was eaten up on a hard grounder that took a bounce past him, but he did wonderfully on the double plays. Only Glaus's backhand error was the most obvious flub of the night.

Jurrjens just lost complete command in the fifth inning. He has a tendency to nibble a lot when he's in trouble and that gets his pitch count up very quickly. He had that same problem last season.

Pitching two or three innings in relief at a time is something that Kris Medlen was born to do. I hope Bobby uses him a lot more as a two-inning fireman.

The loss of control was odd for Moylan, but he worked out of the jam.

Lastly, when Billy Wagner's on, forget it.

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