The Braves had the kind of game they envisioned having a lot this year: just enough offense to win and the starting pitching absolutely dominating the opposition. Tommy Hanson pitched brilliantly for eight innings, got some offense support, and Billy Wagner held off the Astros in the ninth to break Atlanta's nine-game losing streak.
A few notes about the losing streak:
- It was the longest road losing streak for the Braves since 1949, when the Boston team lost two straight four-game series against the Phillies and Dodgers.
- In nine games, the Braves scored just seventeen runs, one more than the amount they scored on Opening Day.
- Four quality starts, two by Tim Hudson, were blown by the Braves. Atlanta also lost four games where they took the lead first.
The Braves struck instantly when leadoff batter Nate McLouth homered to center on the first pitch from hurler Brett Myers. Martin Prado singled, Chipper Jones walks and Brian McCann hit into a double play, moving Prado to third. Troy Glaus then bounced a grounder to short which rolled up shortstop Tommy Manzella's arm and struck him in the throat. He stayed in the game, but was charged with an error on the play. He committed another error which allowed Jason Heyward to reach base. After Melky Cabrera walked, the Braves were held off the board when Omar Infante lined to second.
After an RBI single by J.R. Towles tied the game at two, Hanson retired 20 of the 21 batters he faced, giving up just a single to Carlos Lee to lead off the fourth inning. Heyward provided all the support Hanson would need when he smacked a two-run homer to right in the third inning. Jason would have had a second home run in the eighth inning off of lefty reliever Tim Byrdak, but Hunter Pence leaped up at the wall in right and snagged the ball just as it was about to disappear behind the yellow line.
Astros starter Brett Myers tossed seven innings, allowing just one other single and walk after Cabrera's two-out single in the third.
When the ninth inning rolled around, Hanson was pulled in favor of closer Billy Wagner, who had just two save opportunities up to that point. The situation mirrored an infamous game from September of last season:
The Braves were up 1-0 on the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Hanson had just pitched eight innings, walked no batters and struck out seven men. Cox lifted him for closer Rafael Soriano. Soriano struck out Michael Bourn, but Kazuo Matsui hit a single to right. Lance Berkman then hit a double on the next pitch. Carlos Lee then was intentionally walked to set up the double play. However, Miguel Tejada spoiled that with a single up the middle, scoring two runs and winning the game for the Astros.
This time, Billy Wagner got Jeff Keppinger to ground to Glaus at first base. He then walked Pedro Feliz on four pitches. Lee ended the game by hitting into a double play, preserving the win for the Braves.
ATLANTA 10, HOUSTON 1
After going down early, the Braves broke out their bats and Houston lost their gloves, leading to a 10-1 Atlanta win.
The Astros struck first off Braves starter Tim Hudson when Michael Bourn singled, stole second, moved to third on Keppinger's single and scored on Berkman's groundout.
It didn't take the Braves long to answer off of Wandy Rodriguez. Hudson led off the third inning with a single and moved to second on Martin Prado's single. The two moved up one base on Chipper's fly ball to center and both scored on Glaus's fly ball double that went over Pence's head in right field.
The Astros didn't mount a serious threat after the third inning while the Braves just kept on scoring. Houston didn't get a runner to second base until the ninth inning, when they were down nine runs. The Braves scored three in the fifth, one in the sixth, and four in the seventh.
Heyward led off the seventh with his seventh home run and Prado had a bases-loaded double. Omar Infante scored three runs and went 3-5. Prado also had three hits scored two runs.
Hudson pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks. Peter Moylan finished the seventh inning with a strikeout and Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters finished the game with a scoreless innings each.
ATLANTA 7, HOUSTON 1
Once again, Derek Lowe got more run support. This time, however, he didn't have to work so hard to help the Braves complete their first three-game sweep of the Astros in seven years. Atlanta scored three runs in the fourth and fifth innings off of Astros starter Bud Norris to cement a 7-1 victory.
McCann walked to lead off the second inning and moved to third on Glaus's liner to left that was hit so hard, Troy had to settle for a single. Heyward then launched a ball to right field, but Pence corralled it at the warning track. That scored McCann and gave the Braves the lead.
In fourth, Hewyard doubled home McCann, moving Glaus to third base, and Cabrera singled home both runners. Infante also reached with a single and then Derek Lowe tried to bunt the runners over. Instead, he popped up the ball to the on-rushing first baseman Berkman. Lance then let the ball drop to start a 3-6-5 double play. It would have been possible for him to get a triple play because Lowe wasn't running out of the box, but the attempted sac bunt turned into two outs anyway.
Atlanta loaded the bases in the fifth with one out for Heyward. The rookie hit a bouncer to the left of the mound that Norris was able to cut off with a stumbling roll. He then tried to throw home, but the toss went to the backstop, allowing Chipper to score. However, the ball bounced right back to Towles and he was able to tag out McCann attempting to score. Cabrera then completed the scoring by hitting a ground ball between first and second that rolled all the way to the wall because Pence was positioned in right center. This gave Melky a two-run double and ended Norris's day.
Both the Braves and Astros bullpens pitched scoreless stints. Kris Medlen, Takashi Saito and Wagner pitched four scoreless innings (Medlen had two), while Chris Sampson got one strikeout, Jeff Fulchino pitched two shutout innings and Lyon had a scoreless eighth frame.