As has happened so often this season, the Braves botch a good game with Jeff Bennett.
Game 1: Kenshin Kawakami pitches a gem, and Dice-K struggles again. Kawakami showed the reason why Atlanta brought him over and the offense pounded the Red Sox pitchers.
Game 2: Complete game shutout by Josh Beckett. No surprise here. He is one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Game 3: The Braves have the remarkably consistent Jair Jurrjens facing the knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. The conditions favored the knuckle ball as it was windy and rainy, yet the Braves put up two early.
Fast forward to the late innings when the game got interesting.
7th Inning: The Braves hit Wakefield and Ramon Ramirez to score two runs and tie the game at four. The Red Sox came right back on Jurrjens and Eric O’Flaherty and go up one.
At this point, the Braves' offense is still hitting well and seems to have generated some offensive momentum.
8th Inning: The Braves tie the game with a slump-busting double by Kelly Johnson and a timely single by Garrett Anderson. Mike Gonzalez pitches a perfect 8th inning. (I threaten to have a heart attack every time he pitches, but I do not care so long as he gets people out).
Top of 9th Inning: Atlanta loads the bases but cannot deliver against Jonathan Papelbon. The have generated some momentum. Surely they need a pitcher to lock down the Sox in the 9th. Chances are that they will score a run in the next two innings and put the game away.
They bring in Rafael Soriano, right? RIGHT?
Wrong! In trots Jeff Bennett.
Now I understand that the team was saving Soriano for a lead where he could shut down the Red Sox, but the Braves had momentum. Why would you bring in the bullpen’s biggest liability?
And on cue, Bennett gives up a home run to the slap hitting shortstop, Nick Green.
Bennett has done more to harm the Braves' bullpen than good. Why go to him in a tie game? His ERA is 3.03 (after the game). He has a 1.84 WHIP. He has 20 walks to go with 22 strikeouts in 32.2 innings. What about this guy says “lock-down reliever?”
Look at Soriano’s stats in comparison. ERA: 1.42, 11 walks and 42 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched. He has a .94 WHIP. Here is the guy for 9th inning tie games with better teams.
The Braves had an opportunity to make a statement as to how they were going to fare for the remainder of the season. Instead of walking away with a series win, they plunge back to mediocrity.
Please Atlanta, at the very least, push Bennett to the back of the bullpen. Bring him in again when the game is not on the line.