How do you score runs? Well, if you’re the Braves, you get Kenshin Kawakami out of the game. It’s hard to see how a pitcher could be such a drag on the offense, especially in a game in which he hits a ground-rule double, but the evidence is pretty hard to ignore. With Kawakami, who as I’ve said is never going to win another game, in, the Braves could score only two runs and left about ten men on base. Once he left, they got three runs and a win for for Takashi Saito, which only shows that the Braves’ inability to win for Kawakami is not driven by anti-Japanese sentiment (presumably stirred up by Furman Bisher).
The Braves got an early lead, a run in the first on a sac fly by Glaus to score Prado. But in the second, they loaded the bases with nobody out and couldn’t score as McLouth and Kawakami (see, it is his fault) struck out and Prado flew out. In the third, Glaus hit a solo homer, but the Braves left the bases loaded again after a McLouth lineout. They had two on, one out in the fifth, and couldn’t score. After Kawakami’s double in the sixth, he couldn’t score on a Prado single, and Infante popped out and Heyward grounded out to end the threat.
Kawakami, however, was dealing, and as it’s only the Pirates, a 2-0 lead might hold up. Except that it didn’t. In about a minute, Kawakami (a) seemingly had the leadoff man in the seventh struck out only to have the K erased by the third-base umpire who ruled strike three a foul-tip that Ross didn’t catch (I actually thought it was the right call) (b) walked him, and (c) allowed a homer to tie the game. He got the next two, but wasn’t allowed to finish the inning as Bobby brought in O’Flaherty to get Akinori “.173” Iwamura.
The Braves didn’t do anything in the seventh, but Saito destroyed the Pirates (two strikeouts and a weak flyout) in the eighth. With one out, Nate McLouth helped show one of the great things about baseball. After being probably the game’s premier goat for seven innings, and having an awful series both offensively and defensively, he worked a walk and stole second; McCann, pinch-hitting, was semi-intentionally walked. They got Prado, and it looked like a repeat of the rest of the game, but Zombie Chipper came through with a single to score McLouth. They brought in a lefty to face Heyward, who, being Heyward, tripled to left to score two runs and make it 5-2. Wagner had absolutely no trouble in the ninth, throwing ten pitches. I do wish he and Saito hadn’t had to work so much with the Phillies coming up, but you can’t have everything.