The Atlanta Braves starting pitching and defense have been incredible this season. Ervin Santana, making his Atlanta debut, treated us to yet another scoreless performance by an Atlanta starter, and he did it in dominant fashion.
His seven-pitch first inning set the pace, and he remained a strike throwing machine all night. He not only completed eight shutout innings, he did so on 88 pitches, 65 of which were strikes. Incredibly enough, he began the game with 20 straight strikes, and he only threw 10 pitches all night where he was behind in the count.
Santana’s final line was 8 IP, 3 H, 0BB, 6K. He even added an RBI single to the mix in his first game as an NL pitcher. To say his debut was successful is an understatement.
The Braves even remembered to bring their bats to the stadium for him, a move that proved to be especially fortuitous after the bullpen decided to make things interesting in the 9th.
Jason Heyward busted out of his slump in a big way. He led off the 1st with an 11 pitch at-bat off of Atlanta-native Zack Wheeler that ended with a home run to deep right-center. He ended the night 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored. He also made a beautiful diving catch on the warning track to end the 6th inning and keep Santana’s shutout alive.
Heyward’s catch was not the only web gem of the night. In the bottom of the first, Juan Lagares robbed Freddie Freeman of a double that would have scored Andrelton Simmons from first. Simmons added his own gem to end the top of the 2nd, when he fielded a ground ball deep in the hole, slipped, and threw the runner out at first from a sitting position. It looked as ridiculously awesome as it sounds.
In the 5th inning the Braves scored three runs off of five hits, which was a nice change of pace from what the offense has done for the first week of the season. An Evan Gattis double, Santana bloop single, Heyward single, Simmons single, and Freddie Freeman single gave the Braves a 4-0 lead.
Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel gave us a scare in the 9th, but there was just enough wiggle room for them to get away with it. Walden walked his first man and left the game with one out and two men on. Kimbrel also walked his first man, struck out Lucas Duda, and then allowed back-to-back hits that scored three runs. Fortunately, he struck out Ruben Tejada with men on the corners to end it.
The Braves ended up with 9 hits, and several of their outs were hit quite hard. They could have easily added a few more hits with a little luck. Freeman went 2-for-4 even after he was robbed in the 1st, and he continued his Mets-killing ways with 2 RBIs. He really is the new Chipper.