The Atlanta Braves looked to avenge their opening loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday night. This was the kind of game that started out easy and took a potentially disastrous turn in the 9th inning. The Braves simply dominated all facets of the first 8 innings and looked great doing it. The starting pitching was fantastic from Ervin Santana, who pitched shutout baseball in that stretch. The bats were booming with another homer that gave the Braves an early lead. Basically everything was working, and the home crowd loved watching it.
For once, the Braves jumped out to an early lead, which hasn’t happened yet this season. In the first inning (and with the first batter of the game), Jason Heyward busted a Zach Wheeler fastball into the right field stands, making the score 1-0 Braves. That must have shook something loose because Heyward went on a tear all game long. Wheeler did a nice job of recovering as he held the Braves scoreless for the next 4 innings, but eventually the Braves got to him in the bottom half of the 5th.
Santana, in his debut, held the Mets at bay basically the whole game. He did it on only 88 pitches, and pounded the zone for 65 strikes. He was daring Mets hitters to make contact, and they just couldn’t put the ball where they wanted. The defense behind him was also very sharp, which made it easier for Santana to put it on cruise control to the 5th inning. That’s when the Braves finally opened the hitting floodgates.
Gattis started off the 5th with a double down the left field line. After a Schafer strikeout, that brought Santana to the plate. Now, Santana has done most of his work in the AL, so he’s not used to using the lumber much. However, he shocked everyone in the stadium by lacing a pitch into right field, putting runners at the corners. That brought up Heyward who promptly singled to right, scoring Gattis. Simmons cracked a hit to left, but with Santana as the lead runner, the Braves weren’t going to send him and risk a play at the plate. The bases were loaded for Freddie Freeman, a scenario that every Braves fan dreams about when they head off to sleep. Of course, Freeman delivered with a hit of his own, scoring two, and taking the Braves lead to 4-0.
Santana shut down the rest of the Mets lineup through the 8th, and Jordan Walden came in for the 9th. That’s when things got a little crazy. Walden got himself into a bit of trouble, putting two men on with one out. Fredi Gonzalez wasted no time to bring in Kimbrel to put out the fire. Except Craig decided to throw some gasoline on it instead. He walked the first guy he saw loading the bases. After striking out Duda to get two outs, he gave up a bounding single that scored two runs. Then another single that scored the Mets third run. Suddenly, the game was on the line, a runner was standing on third, and Craig faced Tejada who could tie it up.
When the dust settled, Craig carved up Tejada with a strikeout and the Braves escaped disaster with a 4-3 win. The player of the game was obviously Jason Heyward with his stellar 3/4 night, homer, 2 runs, and 2 RBIs. However, Santana was a close second with his 8 innings of 3-hit, shutout pitching.
The Braves will look to take the series against the Mets on Thursday with David Hale on the mount opposing Jenrry Mejia. I’d say if the Braves lineup can put 4 more on the board, they’ll have a good chance, especially if they are able to put together a better finish.