When Kris Medlen was sent down to Triple A to prepare him for a spot in the Atlanta rotation, it became clear that either Randall Delgado or Mike Minor would be making way, with both pitchers having struggled through the month of May. Two quality starts later though and Delgado’s performances will make it very difficult for Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez to make him the fall guy. Delgado’s effort against the Marlins in Miami, Wednesday, ranks amongst the best in his short career with the Braves running out 2-1 winners.
Delgado was simply dominant, following on from Tim Hudson’s shutout a day earlier. He needed just 80 pitches for his 6.1 innings and was unlucky not to go deeper into the game as Gonzalez opted for reliever, Jonny Venters when Delgado issued a one-out walk to Giancarlo Stanton in the seventh. Prior to that though, the Marlins could muster very little. Delgado cruised through the first four innings, retiring a perfect 12 hitters and though Stanton would score in the fifth after a lead-off double, that was the limit of the damage done.
"Our pitching was phenomenal," Gonzalez said. "We had good solid defence, nothing flashy, made all the routine plays and just got enough runs. Games like these where the pitchers give you a good effort and keep the opposition from putting a big number up -- we've won four or five like this."
After scoring 11 runs to back Hudson on Tuesday, the Braves were finding Marlins starter, Josh Johnson to be a tougher opponent. It took Delgado’s own bat to make the decisive breakthrough in the fourth inning, to take advantage of Johnson’s only wobble of the night. Brian McCann led off with a double, following which Dan Uggla drew a walk from his former teammate. Freddie Freeman singled home McCann, but was then doubled-up by Jason Heyward. With the pitchers spot coming up, Johnson elected to walk rookie Andrelton Simmons to get to Delgado, but with Uggla on third, Delgado laced a base hit to left field and Uggla scored what proved to be the winning run.
Delgado had well and truly put himself in line for the win and when he was lifted with one out in the seventh, he had given up just one run on two hits, walking one and striking out seven. "I felt great today and I was pretty good in the strike zone," he said. "I felt pretty good with my arm and I think the extra rest helped with that."
Johnson will consider himself unlucky to come away from this game as the losing pitcher. The Marlins’ ace went 7.2 innings (6H, 2ER, 3BB, 9K), which would have been a full 8, but for striking out Eric Hinske on a wild pitch. However, he was more than matched all the way by a talented young pitcher who has reached the big leagues and is desperate to stay there. "You've got to give credit to people that deserve credit," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Delgado, with all respect to all the people we've faced in the past, this kid was the best one we've seen so far. He's not the best pitcher we've seen, but today, he had the best stuff I've seen. We've faced some good ones. We've faced some quality pitchers. I think today this kid was at the top of his game."
Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel worked perfect 8th and 9th innings, respectively. The Braves have now won five of their last six games, having dropped eight consecutive games prior to that. With pitching performances the likes of the last week, the Braves will be far less concerned than they were when they originally sent Medlen to Gwinnett. It is now up to Minor to give the Braves’ management real food for thought. He faces Mark Buehrle in the final game of the series tomorrow, with a sweep on the line.
6th June 2012