The Jay-Hey Kid came through again tonight. Jason Heyward, a favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year, hit a double, moved to third on a Chipper Jones sac fly, and stole home on the next pitch. He's stealing more than bases these days, however. He is stealing the thunder right out of the Phillies and Mets.
It couldn't come at a better time.
The Braves, atop the NL East and poised to take their first divisional crown since 2002, are cruising with the help of Heyward, 2010 All-Star Game MVP Brian McCann, Troy Glaus, Martin Prado, Matt Diaz, and the crew. The Braves possess the depth and talent likened to many of the pennant winners in the 1990s.
With a rotation that features Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and a surprise in Kris Medlen, the pitching is as solid as the days of Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz-Mercker-Avery. The bullpen is good, too, with guys like Peter Moylan, Eric O'Flaherty, Johnny Venters, and, of course, the venerable Billy Wagner.
Many of those names made impacts tonight.
Tim Hudson pitched 7 2/3 innings of one run, seven hit baseball, striking out seven in the process and walking just one. Out of 96 pitches, 63 were strikes, including 18 first-pitch strikes. Venters struck out Adam Dunn to end the eighth. Wagner, as is often the case, pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his 23rd save on the year.
Prado continued to flourish in his leadoff role, going 3-5 with a double and two runs scored. Chipper was 1-4 with 2 RBI. Brian McCann also stole a base, his fourth of the year.
The Braves improved their record to 58-42, 16 games above .500 and 3.5 games ahead of Philadelphia. Philadelphia has been hot of late, riding a seven-game win streak. Atlanta is fighting to stay atop the NL East, and they are getting contributions from everyone.
This Atlanta team is going to be seeing October for the first time in nearly 10 years, and I couldn't be happier.
- Stephen Strasburg was scratched from what was to be his 10th ML start with shoulder soreness. He isn't expected to miss any time and should make his next start.