Braves Take Greg Maddux's Advice, Beat Mets

James HulkaAnalyst IJuly 18, 2009

LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 08:  Four-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher Greg Maddux announces his retirement from Major League Baseball during a news conference at the league's Winter Meetings at the Bellagio December 8, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Maybe the Braves should hold pre-game ceremonies more often if they'll follow them up with performances like tonight. 

With Greg Maddux inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame Friday afternoon, the Braves expected a night of emotion and high attendance for Friday evening's game against the New York Mets, where his No. 31 would be retired.

With Maddux in the booth, Jair Jurrjens jammed Gary Sheffield on a cut fastball that made the Mad Dog proud.

The Braves scored three in the first and never looked back on their way to a two-hit shutout, winning easily 11-0.

The only two hits the Mets got were doubles by Gary Sheffield in the second, and David Wright in the fourth. Jair Jurrjens stranded them both, getting a double play in the second and two groundouts in the fourth, as Yunel Escobar had a busy night on the infield.

Nate McLouth was the only position player who started the game that didn't join the hit parade, but fortunately his 0-for-5 didn't slow down anyone else.

The Braves scored in each of the odd numbered innings, and totaled seven doubles in the game, half of their hit total of 14.

With one out in the first, Martin Prado doubled to left-center and Chipper Jones drew a walk. Brian McCann worked the count to 3-2 before roping a double down the right field line that scored two. Yunel Escobar followed two batters later with an RBI single that scored McCann putting the Braves up 3-0.

The same portion of the Braves lineup went to work in the third. Martin Prado hit a solo homerun to lead off the inning that bounced on top of the yellow line in center and hopped into the stands.

Brian McCann launched the second homer of the inning two batters later just out of the reach of Jeff Francoeur in right, following a Chipper Jones single, giving the Braves a 6-0 lead. 

It's the second consecutive night the Braves had two home runs in the same inning.

In the fifth, Jones doubled with one out and moved to third on a bloop single by Brian McCann. Garret Anderson's double off the wall in right scored Jones from third and ended Mike Pelfrey's night after 4 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and getting only 10 outs.

Tim Redding came in and was rudely greeted by Yunel Escobar who doubled to left-center, scoring McCann and Anderson. Gary Sheffield pulled a hamstring and tried to flip the ball to center fielder Angel Pagan to no avail, and was replaced by Jeremy Reed and walked gingerly off the field.

The Braves added a fourth run as Ryan Church singled to left pushing Escobar to third, and Casey Kotchman poked an RBI single to right giving the Braves a 10-0 lead.

The Braves' final run came in the seventh inning off Elmer Dessens when Yunel Escobar drilled a 1-out, ground-rule double to center, and scored two batters later on an RBI double by Casey Kotchman.

Jair Jurrjens was phenomenal and really wasn't in trouble the whole night. He allowed two hits and two walks in six scoreless innings. The only inning where more than one runner reached base was the second, when Alex Cora conveniently hit into an inning-ending double play.

Boone Logan, Luis Valdez and Kris Medlen each threw a hitless inning to complete the shutout, after Jurrjens was removed despite throwing just 85 pitches.

The win, coupled with the Marlins' loss to the Phillies, not only got the Braves back to .500 at 45-45, but they're now tied for second, still six games back of Philadelphia.

They've won six out of their last eight games, but some better bullpen work on the last road trip might've had the Braves carrying an 8-game winning streak into Saturday afternoon's game against Johan Santana.

Three bullpen collapses on the last road trip cost Tommy Hanson two wins, and while a 5-5 road trip to three different time zones is decent, an 8-2 trip would've looked a lot better, and so would 14 wins in their last 16 games, instead of the 11-5 mark since the start of the Philadelphia series.

Even with Mike Gonzalez resting his sore elbow for a few more days, the Braves aren't really an arm short in the bullpen. With Tommy Hanson optioned down to AAA until Sunday, the Braves are able to give Gonzalez a few more games to rest, while still having seven relievers in the bullpen, and none of them having thrown in both games so far in this series.

Hanson's return after Sunday's series finale, will likely bring Gonzalez back rested, and see Luis Valdez return to Gwinnett. Omar Infante hopes to return by early August, and allow Diory Hernandez to play the remainer of the season in AAA.

With Sheffield's injury, the Mets are going to lose their only real power threat in their lineup likely for the last two games of the series. David Wright's average is dropping, and I doubt the Braves are going to give him any pitches to hit to add to his sagging homerun total of five.

That five homerun total will be the highest number the Braves will likely see from a Mets hitter this weekend, as Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Daniel Murphy will be the high men in the lineup.

While the Braves will be facing a rested Johan Santana, the Braves are the one team Santana has yet to record a victory against in his Major League career. He's just 3-5 with an 4.83 ERA since the beginning of June (eight starts), and that includes seven shutout innings in his last start against the Reds.

Kenshin Kawakami hasn't been stellar, but he's been pretty steady. His best games have come when he's had more than four days rest, or if he's facing a dominant starter. He outdueled fellow Japanese hurler Daisuke Matsusaka in Boston, and bested Roy Halladay, both times with more than four days rest.

Over that same time period (since June 1), Kawakami is 2-0, with a 3.64 ERA with the Braves winning six of those eight games.

Sunday's pitching matchup also favors the Braves, as Fernando Nieve has cooled off, after a hot start to his season. He's 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA over his last four starts.

The Braves welcome back a hopefully healthy Javier Vazquez, who might be pitching for the sweep on Sunday afternoon if the Braves can best Santana on Saturday.

Over his last four starts, Vazquez is 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA, and has a 2.03 ERA over his last eight starts, dating back to June 1. His only loss in the last four outings was a 1-0 loss against the Red Sox at Turner Field. 

Realistically, the Braves could see themselves either alone in second place in the NL, and or only four games back of the Phillies depending on how the NL East games go this weekend.

The Braves will have to face Tim Lincecum on Wednesday, but will miss facing Matt Cain (pitches Sunday against Pittsburgh) and Randy Johnson (on DL).during their following series against the Giants.

For one night though, everything was perfect in Atlanta.


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