There are comebacks. And then there’s this. The last comeback like this one was Great Britain in World War II.
Tommy Hanson had never really had a poor start before today, but when he did, wow, it was a doozy. After pitching around two first-inning baserunners, he allowed a leadoff single in the second. He came back and got the next two, and with the pitcher due up, was seemingly going to get out of it. He never got another out. The pitcher singled, and Hanson walked the next batter on five pitches — perhaps looking to get Miguel Cairo, who was hitting second and came into the game hitting .138. (The Reds’ batting order seems organized as a plot to keep Joey Votto from driving in as many runs as possible.)
Cairo singled, scoring a run and leaving the bases loaded. And then Votto picked up four RBI on one swing of the bat. Hanson still couldn’t get out of the inning, going single, walk, RBI single, double to make it 8-0 when Bobby finally stopped the bleeding and brought in Jesse “White Flag” Chavez, because the game was over, right?
You couldn’t have really blamed the Braves for not showing up at the plate after that. They didn’t quit. They scored three runs in the middle innings, though all came on errors on Heyward groundouts. They actually had a sliver of hope, cutting the lead to 9-3 in the fifth with two on, none out, and Chipper and McCann coming up, but Chipper struck out and McCann grounded into a double play. Surely they would give up now… and for the next three innings it seemed like they had.
It was only in the ninth that they got an actual hit with runners on, a bases-loaded single by McLouth that cut the lead to 9-5. Then a walk to Ross, and another error on a Prado grounder that scored a run and brought Heyward to the plate as the winning run. The Reds brought in Arthur Rhodes, who is literally old enough to be Heyward’s father, and Rhodes got a strikeout (after Heyward just missed hitting a 3-1 pitch for a grand slam that might have actually caused the entire city of Atlanta to spontaneously combust) for the first out of the inning. And Chipper and McCann were out of the game already, because hey, it was 9-3, and Kimbrel was in Chipper’s spot. Brooks Conrad pinch-hit, and the Reds brought in their closer, Francisco Cordero.
Cordero got it to 1-2, then Conrad took ball two. He fought off the next pitch, then he hit an opposite-field grand slam homer to win the game. All this in a game in which the Braves’ ace pitcher was knocked out in the second inning and saw his ERA skyrocket from 2.88 to 4.18 and the three top hitters who carried them last night, Heyward, Jones, and McCann, were a collective 0-12.
A lot of credit has to go to the bullpen, which allowed only one run (a solo shot off of Chavez) in 7 1/3 innings of work. Chavez allowed only one other hit in 3 1/3. Venters pitched three shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks. Kimbrel picked up the win, his first, with a shutout ninth.