The Principality

Supporting the Braves online since 2000

Bullpen Hits Meltdown, Throws Away Sweep

The Braves bullpen threw away a seven-run lead in spectacular fashion to lose 12-11, Wednesday, in game 3 against the Phillies.  With the game tied at two, a five-run third inning had given the Braves a comfortable lead.  Jordan Schafer then hit a two-run shot, his second home run in only his third major league game, to extend the lead and a tenth run was added in the 7th inning.

With the job seemingly completed, Bobby Cox withdrew starter, Javier Vasquez, who had given up three runs in his six innings of work.  Believing in his bullpen, the ball was handed to Eric O'Flaherty who retired Shane Victorino before giving up a hit to Chase Utley and hitting Ryan Howard on the shoulder.  This was enough for Bobby Cox, who withdrew the lefty in favour of Aussie, Pete Moylan, but this was just the start of the rot.

Moylan couldn't record an out, walking two and giving up two singles. Nor could Boyer, also struggling with his control.  In all, five walks were given up without recording a further out.  The Phillies batted around in the 7th inning with just one out and no extra base hits.  Though Campillo eventually ended the inning, the damage was done and eight runs had scored.

The game eventually ended with Brad Lidge's first save of the season, striking out Garret Anderson for the final out and giving the Phillies a very unlikely victory.  The manner of the defeat for Atlanta raises some serious question marks about the ability of the bullpen to throw strikes and get outs.  Some fans believe Frank Wren's focus has been too much on starting pitching, to the neglect of the 'pen.  Others blame early season rustiness for the lack of control.  Either way, the issue needs to be addressed quickly.

Atlanta now has an off-day before taking on the Nationals in the home opener on Friday night.  Derek Lowe will once again start for the Braves, who will be desperate for him to eat up another eight innings as he did on opening day last Sunday.  He will face Dutch international Shairon Martis.  First pitch is at 7:30pm.

Andrew Bracegirdle

8th April 2009