You don’t win many games on three hits, but the Braves did tonight. Chipper broke up a no-hitter in the fourth with a two-run homer, and Furcal broke up a 2-2 tie in the eighth with a bunt single to score Jesse Garcia (running for Keith Lockhart, who walked twice, making this his best game of the year). Glavine started and allowed only one run, but didn’t get the win when Mike Remlinger blew a hold opportunity.
Vinny Castilla was back in the lineup tonight after missing the Detroit series with a hamstring injury. It didn’t help the Braves’ offense, which is still scuffling. The Braves have won three in a row despite not looking functional on offense for more than a couple of innings. Since an 11-run outburst in the second game of the Minnesota series, the Braves have played eight games, winning six… but have averaged only two and a half runs a game.
The rest of the division all won. The Braves lead Montreal (winners of eight straight) by 4 1/2, Florida by 5 1/2, New York by 6 1/2, with Philadelphia a distant last 11 1/2 out… The Braves’ record is 44-29, a .603 winning percentage. It’s the first time over .600 since the third game of the season.
Wow. You don’t see a lot of 3-2 games with that much action. Well, I suppose there wasn’t that much, but it was compressed action, with most everything coming in two half-innings. The Tigers got two runs in the sixth off of Chris Hammond thanks to the worst defense you’ll ever see; Chipper committed a throwing error, and later Lockhart (new nickname suggestion: Kalista Lockhart) committed two errors on the same play.
The Braves were shut out for eight innings by Adam Bernero, who looked more like Greg Maddux last night than Maddux did. But after Julio Franco doubled leading off the ninth, Bernero was pulled for an old National Leaguer, Juan Acevedo, and the Braves pounded him. Sheffield walked, Chipper singled home Franco, moving Sheffield to third, and Andruw hit a chopper that should have tied the game but Gary froze and was picked off third. Chipper stole third, but it looked like the throw beat him; apparently, the tag missed. Wes Helms, of all people, brought Chipper home with a fly out; Andruw went to second when the centerfielder tripped over the rightfielder.
Then, the Tigers intentionally walked Lockhart, and I started rolling on the floor laughing. Vinny Castilla (still out of the lineup) pinch-hit and fought off a few before getting hit by a pitch. And Javy finished it by lining a ball over George Lombard’s head. It was the first game all year the Braves won after trailing going into the ninth.
Greg Maddux went five good innings; he threw a few more pitches than you might expect but allowed only two hits, no walks. But he pulled up lame in the fifth and had to leave after the inning. It was the the calf muscle that he pulled in his last start; he might skip a turn. Kerry Ligtenberg wound up getting the win; Albie Lopez didn’t pitch because he only pitches in blowouts, but the Braves really need twelve pitchers and that’s final.
The Braves now host the White Sox for three. The Sox score some runs but their starting pitching (other than Mark Buehrle, whom the Braves will miss) is pretty weak. It might be what the offense needs, though getting Lockhart out of there would help too.
Marcus Giles’ baby girl died a couple of days ago. There really isn’t anything to be said about that, only that I’m deeply sorry for his and his wife’s loss.