Baseball is a weird game. After being completely shut down by a starter who entered the game with a four-digit ERA, the Braves rallied to tie in the ninth off the Phillies’ closer, who entered the game 3 of 3 in save situations this season and is not Brad Lidge. They then won the game in extras on a homer by a guy who was to that point 4-29 with no extra-base hits for the season. I just had to double-check the box score to make sure I didn’t imagine the whole thing.
What’s more embarrassing, being no-hit by Ubaldo Jimenez, or being shut out by Kyle Kendrick? I say Kendrick, who entered tonight’s game with a 17.47 ERA, being knocked out of one start after four and the other after one and two-thirds. He left with a 7.24 ERA after eight shutout innings. He gave up only four more hits than Jimenez, and two of them were by Prado, who is hardly even human at this point and doesn’t really count. The Braves actually had one good chance to get not only some runs but a big inning. Prado singled with one out in the fourth, and Chipper followed with a double. (Prado had no reasonable chance of scoring, though if he’d known that the ball was hit as hard as it was he probably would have run further.) But Kendrick walked McCann, and Glaus hit into the automatic double play that everyone in the park knew was coming.
Meanwhile, Tommy Hanson was throwing about twice as many pitches as Kendrick. It looked like he was getting squeezed a bit, but most of it was just the Phillies being the Phillies — they’re the NL’s answer to the Yankees and Red Sox, and they work pitchers hard. He gave up a run in the fourth after the worst double in the history of the world by Utley — he barely hit the ball at all — and a “single” by Howard that was obviously an error by Glaus. He left the game, having thrown over 100 pitches, with two out in the fifth after a double by Victorino; O’Flaherty gave up a hit to — who else? — Utley to make it 2-0. Utley got another RBI on a groundout in the seventh, the run scored off of Medlen. (For once, he gave up a run in his first inning and was perfect in his second.)
Rather than try to get Kendrick (108 pitches) the complete-game shutout, Manuel went to closer-for-now Ryan Madson, his best reliever. Madson got Prado, then walked Chipper, then got McCann. With two out and Chipper on first in the ninth, Glaus, the goat of the early innings, came through with a homer to make it 3-2. Heyward — who else? — followed with a solo shot to tie it up and send the game to extras. Wagner got the Dark Lord Utley to fly out to the track (whew) and struck out Howard. McLouth led off the tenth, and he wanted to go home on time. As Joe Simpson was saying that it would be nice if McLouth could get on base to start something, Nate hit a rocket over the right field wall to end the game.
Bobby gets a lot of abuse for his in-game management skills, and I’ve said a few things about them myself, but I think he did a masterful job running the game tonight. He got Hanson out of the game rather than trying to get him out of the fifth. He used O’Flaherty to pitch to Utley and Howard then rather than saving him (okay, it didn’t work out, but that was the idea) and then brought in Moylan to pitch the sixth when he knew Moylan wouldn’t have to go against the lefties. And then he used Wagner immediately upon going to extras — again, knowing that he’d get the killer lefties in that inning. Manuel probably made the right call going to Madson in a division game against the team he has to beat; normally, basically anyone can save a three run game. Really, it was the opposite of the managing in that Cardinals-Mets game.