Chipper and Minor Do For Lincecum and Giants
In what could prove a crucial week for the National League Wild Card, the Braves stamped their authority over the San Francisco Giants with a 3-1 series win. The series was sealed, Thursday, with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Giants’ ace, Tim Lincecum.
Atlanta rookie, Mike Minor opposed Lincecum on the mound and matched him pitch-for-pitch through six shutout innings. Minor’s 98 pitch effort was one of the best of his young career, giving up just four hits. There was nothing shabby about Lincecum’s seven innings either. However, the two-time Cy Young Award winner made one mistake, a 2-2 fastball to Chipper Jones, which the veteran third baseman deposited into the right-field seats. This proved to be the only run of the game.
"You're not going to hit too many homers off Lincecum," Jones said. "One mistake is all we needed. It was just a great ballgame tonight. It was probably the most fun I've had on the field this year." Through all his injury problems over the course of the season, Jones has managed to notch 11 home runs and still remains a danger to opposing pitchers, whatever their calibre. He followed up his home run with a double off Lincecum in his next at-bat.
Right from the start it proved a tight affair. Minor gave up a lead-off double to Cody Ross, but worked his way out unscathed. Lincecum sailed through the opening three frames facing the minimum, his only blemish a lead-off walk to Dan Uggla to begin the second inning. Meanwhile, Minor was racking up the strikeouts, on his way to 9 in his six innings of work. Rising to the challenge, he retired the final 12 batters he faced before giving way to the reliable bullpen trio of O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel.
Kimbrel’s scoreless ninth inning earned him his 37th save of the season, just three shy of the Major League record for a rookie. It was also his 29th consecutive scoreless inning. Despite the slender 1-0 lead, Kimbrel showed no sign of nerves as his retired the heart of the Giants batting line-up in order.
The sterling effort from both Minor and Kimbrel did not go unnoticed in the Braves’ dugout. "I can't say enough about the kids we used in this series," noted Jones. "They were awesome, flat-out awesome." Indeed they had to be. With aces Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens injured and struggling, respectively, the Braves needed their youngsters to be at their best. Minor’s effort added to the performance by Randall Delgado on Tuesday and exemplified the Braves strength in depth. It gives the organisation reason to be extremely positive about the future.
With the win, the Braves extended their Wild Card lead over their Californian rivals to a healthy six games, perhaps now focusing the Giants’ energies entirely on winning their division. The Braves can help the Giants’ cause this weekend when they face the Arizona Diamondbacks at Turner Field for a three-game set.
18th August 2011