My nerves can’t take much more of this. (Nor can my thumbs — I was switching back and forth with the Alabama game.)
The Braves never trailed in the game, but were always in danger of losing on one swing, which is often the case when you’re playing a team with Albert Pujols. In the first inning, the Braves got two-out hits from Martin Prado and Brian McCann, and Derrek Lee then walked to load the bases. Bobby’s experimenting with Nate McLouth in the six spot, and it’s working, as he suddenly looks competent, and he drew a walk to make it 1-0. Alex Gonzalez struck out to end it. They loaded the bases with two out again in the second, on a single by Omar Infante and walks to Jason Heyward and Prado, but couldn’t get any runs. So six runners left on in the first two innings — not good.
Fortunately, Tommy Hanson was dealing, and the Cards couldn’t get much of anything going against him. In the fifth, Prado and McCann singled to make it first and third, none out, but a botched play wound up with Lee hitting into a double play and Prado still standing at third. No problem, as McLouth came through again, tripling to right to make it 2-0, though he was stranded when Gonzalez flew out.
In the sixth, they got to Hanson, getting a couple of singles, then a two-run double from Pujols. (If Melky Cabrera wasn’t so godawful slow, they might have cut off the second run.) Pujols got caught stealing third to help them out of the inning.
Heyward led off the seventh with a homer, off of a LOOGY (why lefthanders throw him inside, I’ll never know). The Braves had a good chance to get another run when Lee doubled with two out. Rick Ankiel ran for him, and McLouth was intentionally walked. Gonzalez struck out to end the threat. Things weren’t looking too good for AAG at this point, but wait.
The Cards got the run back in the eighth against Jonny Venters, who just isn’t what he was a few weeks ago but also got some horrible defense behind him, including a grounder to Prado that probably should have been an inning-ending double play but which Martin dropped to load the bases. Pujols beat out another double play try to tie the score at three.
From then on, nothing much happened for a while. Billy Wagner walked the leadoff man in the ninth but no harm, and Takashi Saito was terrific in the tenth. Heyward made a big catch in the eleventh, the dreaded Kyle Farnsworth inning, a shoestring play on a line-drive with a runner already on. Craig Kimbrel demolished the Cards in the twelfth, striking out two.
But the Braves were just going down meekly in order. Finally, Ankiel, after falling behind 0-2, worked a walk with one out in the twelfth. Eric Hinske hit for Kimbrel and singled, getting Ankiel to third. Bringing up… Gonzalez. Who fell behind 1-2, then fouled two off. Then hit a homer to left field. Ballgame.