Jason Heyward couldn’t go tonight — uh, last night — because his shoulder is messed up again. This was fortunate, because it got Joe Mather into the lineup. No, I haven’t been eating any funny mushrooms. Mather won the game almost single-handedly. Well, on the offensive end.
Tommy Hanson fell behind in the first inning, hanging an 0-2 pitch to what’s left of Bobby Abreu, who homered with a man on to make it 2-0. In the fifth, he allowed a leadoff double, got a free out on a stupidbunt (Mike Scioscia wrote the introduction to the Modern Library edition of Managing the Deadball Way) then intentionally walked Abreu, who stole second. The following single made it 4-0 and given the Braves’ swing-at-everything philosophy I didn’t see much chance for a rally.
But in the seventh, bizarre, end-times things started to happen, albeit a day late. Freddie Freeman singled, then Alex Gonzalez did as well. Mather came up and hit a high fly ball that just carried and carried all the way out to left field to cut it to 4-3. And then, the Braves didn’t settle for that. With one out, Prado (hitting in the two spot) hit a ground-rule double. Chipper grounded out, but McCann doubled to the gap to tie it.
The Braves got great relief pitching tonight. Eric O’Flaherty allowed a walk in the seventh. Jonny Venters was amazing, getting through the eighth on five pitches and after a leadoff walk got a bunt double play in the ninth. George Sherrill got a popup foul and two strikeouts in the tenth. Somehow, Scott Proctor didn’t allow a walkoff homer in the eleventh, though he came close.
The Braves had lots of chances to get the go-ahead run. McLouth grounded out to the pitcher with two on to end the eighth. Prado walked and went to second on a Chipper flyout (he was obviously out but the umpire blew the call) in the ninth, but after McCann was intentionally walked Hinske hit into a double play. Uggla singled (!) leading off the tenth but might as well have been nailed to first base. McLouth singled leading off the eleventh, Prado bunted him over (“When in doubt, bunt” — Managing the Deadball Way, p. 2) Chipper struck out, McCann was walked again (everyone’s there to watch you, Mike) and Hinske struck out.
Finally, with two out in the twelfth, weird things happened again. Gonzalez singled up the middle, and the second baseman kicked it into left field allowing him to go to second. That brought Mather up again, and his fourth hit of the night, a double, gave the Braves the lead. Craig Kimbrel walked the leadoff man, Scioscia called another bunt (“Just because you’re losing is no reason not to bunt” — Managing the Deadball Way, p. 27) for the free out and Kimbrel got two groundouts to end it.