The Principality

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Hanson Erratic But Braves Win Easily


A 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, ended a reasonable road trip for the Braves with a series win.  However the scoreline doesn’t tell the entire story.  Starting for Atlanta, Tommy Hanson endured five of the toughest innings of his career, but somehow escaped with just the one run against him and thanks to a three-hit performance from Juan Francisco, came away with a highly improbable win.

Since the All-Star break two weeks ago, Hanson has struggled with his control.  Comeback wins against the Mets and Nationals, respectively meant Hanson received two no-decisions, but his problems continued against Miami.  Hanson laboured through 5 innings, walking seven hitters and giving up three hits on the way.  There were baserunners in each inning, many of whom used Hanson’s slow delivery as an opportunity to pad their stolen base numbers.  The Marlins stole seven bases off Hanson, a Major League best for 2012, but despite their early dominance of the Braves’ right hander couldn’t bring home more than the one run.

For all Hanson’s struggles, he was able to survive unscathed due to his seven strikeouts and a great throw from Jose Constanza, which beat Carlos Lee to home plate to end the third inning.  "It was definitely not ideal, but we got the win and that's what counts" Hanson said.  “I was obviously having a hard time locating my fastball and throwing strikes when I needed to. I've got some work to do. The good thing is we still won, and hopefully I can do a better job next time."

The win came in a large part thanks to the bat of Juan Francisco.  Francisco, in for Chipper Jones who generally rests for day games following night games, highlighted his three-hit performance with a monster two-run home run in the 4th inning, giving the Braves a lead they never looked back on.  Michael Bourn notched his career-high 8th home run of the season an inning later to extend the lead to 5-1 before Francisco’s 3rd RBI of the night and Heyward’s 15th home run of the year completed the rout.  "It takes a little bit of pressure off, but I still kept walking guys," Hanson said. "But when you get six or seven runs, it makes it a lot easier."

From the opposing dugout, Marlins manager, Ozzie Guillen, could only watch helplessly as his team squandered multiple scoring opportunities early on.  Guillen’s team has been decimated over the recent days approaching the trade deadline, losing Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez to trades with rumours pitcher Josh Johnson may be up for sale as well.  "The game was pretty confusing,”  Guillen said. "In five innings, we steal seven bases, walk like seven times, three doubles and we score one. Sometimes you think about it and shake your head like, 'How does that happen? How do things happen like that?' For five innings we felt like we could score any time, any moment and we didn't."

For all Hanson’s good fortune, Marlins starter, Ricky Nolasco, was struggling for different reasons and being made to pay.  For Nolasco, it wasn’t a matter of control, he was just getting hit.  Guillen eventually pulled his starter after 5.1 innings having given up 6 earned runs on 8 hits.  Proving that walks and stolen bases do not equate to runs, Nolasco issued just one free pass.

Kris Medlen settled things down from the sixth inning onwards.  He gave up just a walk in three innings and Jonny Venters struck out two in a perfect ninth as he continues his recovery following a stint on the disabled list.  With the win, the Braves held steady at 4.5 games behind Washington in the NL East.

Atlanta now has an off-day before travelling home to face the in-form Phillies.  Ben Sheets is tabbed to face Cole Hamels in Friday night’s opener.  Meanwhile, GM Frank Wren’s resources are being spent looking for another starter to solidify a shaky rotation before the July 31st trade deadline passes.

Andrew Bracegirdle

25th July 2012