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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Two Is Enough; Cubs Shut Out Braves


As much as things went right in the first two games of the series for the Braves, nearly everything went wrong for them Thursday night. Randy Wells and the Cubs bullpen made two solo home runs stand up as Chicago shut out Atlanta 2-0.

Wells pitched six innings and allowed six hits and three walks. Twice he was able to get out of situations with runners in scoring position by getting double play groundouts from Troy Glaus in the third and Yunel Escobar in the sixth. Glaus's double play came after an error by Wells on a dropped throw to second base that loaded the bases.

In the meantime, Tommy Hanson was trying to match Wells, but he fell behind 1-0 in the second inning on a long home run to right by rookie Tyler Colvin. The blast was Colvin's first in his major league career. Marlon Byrd launched a blast to left field in the fourth inning to increase the lead to two runs. That's where pitching and defense took over.

Hanson, who struggled to hit the outside corner all night, managed to allow just five other Cub baserunners in 5 1/3 innings of work. He gave way to Eric O'Flaherty, who pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief, allowing no hits.

When Wells was removed in the sixth inning, Pinella chose his pitchers strictly on lefty-righty batters the rest of the game. Sean Marshall pitched to Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth, then he gave way to Esmilian Cardid, who pitched to pinch-hitter Matt Diaz to finish the sixth inning. Caridad worked into the seventh and left with Martin Prado on first and two out for the left-hander John Grabow to face Brian McCann. McCann walked, so Grabow was removed in favor of closer Carlos Marmol. He got Glaus to ground out, his second such result with a runner in scoring position, to end the inning.

Jesse Chavez, who had a terrible spring training (10 IP, 21 H, 14 ER, 12.60 ERA), pitched two innings of perfect relief in the eighth and ninth for the Braves. In the Braves' half of the ninth, Yunel Escobar lead off with a single. Jason Heyward then swung and missed at three sliders low and inside. After working a full count, Nate McLouth walked and Eric Hinske came on to pinch-hit. On a 2-0 count, he launched a pitch to center field, but it died at the warning track. Escobar moved up to third. The next batter, Melky Cabrera, struck out looking on a 1-2 pitch to end the game.

My Commentary: Hanson looked good early on, but he was having trouble all night trying to locate pitches on the outside corner, mostly to right-handed batters. This caused him to throw a lot of pitches and be taken out in the middle of the sixth inning. He was lucky that he only had those two runs scored off of him. It's great that he struck out seven batters, but he probably needs to throw a lot less pitches doing that.

The Braves bullpen has been perfect so far. Every pitcher has done excellent work; O'Flaherty mowed down the Cubs batters quickly tonight. I wonder how long that scoreless streak (10 2/3 innings) will last.

Troy Glaus had two singles and didn't strike out once and Martin Prado continued to stay hot early, getting three hits.

I know I railed against small sample sizes earlier, but what I'm fearing about Melky Cabrera seems to be coming true. Through the first three games, he's 1-13 with just a single and two walks while the former leadoff hitter Nate McLouth is 2-8 with two singles, three walks and a hit by pitch. Cox said that the Braves may change their lineup for Friday's game against the Giants. The game is against Johnathan Samchez, a left-hander, so Diaz may start in left field and David Ross at catcher while Cabrera and McCann get days off.

Jason Heyward looked every bit like a rookie in the ninth inning with Escobar on first and none out. I hope that he's learned his lesson quickly; the Braves can't afford to have him do that when the team needs him the most.

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