After sweeping the defending champion San Francisco Giants, the Atlanta Braves were looking to end their road trip on a high note in San Diego before heading home for a 7-game homestand.
In the first game, Jason Heyward continued his strong road trip, belting his 6th home run in the top of the first, but the Padres proved to be resilient, scoring a run in the second and third to take a 2-1 lead before the Braves came back, scoring two of their own on RBI singles from Alex Gonzalez and Derek Lowe.
But the Padres were not done, as Nick Hundley’s RBI-double tied the game in the 7th. Neither team was able to push a runner across until Ryan Ludwick ended the game with a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 13th inning off reliever Cristian Martinez for a 5-3 Padre victory.
Derek Lowe bounced back from a rough start against the Dodgers last Wednesday and allowed 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings, striking out 8 before handing the ball over to the bullpen.
It was not the offensive output the Braves or their fans expected after Sunday’s 9-6 extra inning victory, especially with Alex Gonzalez being the only Atlanta batter to record two hits.
With the bullpen putting in a lot of work over the last week, Jair Jurrjens took the mound Tuesday evening looking to do whatever it took to give the relievers a well-deserved rest.
And Jurrjens did just that, tossing the Braves first complete game victory since Sept. 25, 2009 when Javier Vasquez did the same against the Washington Nationals.
Jurrjens gave up 2 runs on 9 hits, striking out four and walking two while throwing 114 pitches in the Curacao-born pitchers third start of the season and a 8-2 Atlanta win.
While Jurrjens was setting down batter after Padre batter, the Atlanta offense, led by Chipper Jones’ early two-run home run and David Ross’ two home run, four RBI day, the Braves put themselves in position to take the series in Wednesday’s afternoon finale.
In Wednesday’s finale, Martin Prado got the offense started against Padre starter Mat Latos with a double on the second pitch of the game before scoring on Chipper’s RBI-groundout.
The Braves were not done there, putting a 5-spot up on Latos in the second inning, as Prado brought rookie Freddie Freeman and Nate McLouth around before Jones’ triple scored Prado and Heyward.
Given a 6-run cushion, Tommy Hanson gave the Braves another solid start, tossing 7 shutout innings and recording the fourth 10 strikeout game of his career before making way for Cory Gearrin and Craig Kimbrel.
The two rookies combined to not allow a single Padre hit, locking down an Atlanta 7-0 victory and heading back home with a winning record on the 10-game trip (6-4) after losing three of the first four in Los Angeles.
After playing 10 games in 10 days, the Braves get Thursday off before Friday’s series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals, pitting Tim Hudson against Chris Carpenter.
Saturday’s middle game pits rookie Brandon Beachy against Jake Westbrook before Sunday’s finale, when Lowe toes the slab opposite Jamie Garcia.
The Cardinals come into the series going 4-3 in their last 7 games against Washington, Cincinnati and Houston.
But this Cardinal team cannot be taken lightly, especially with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the middle of their lineup.
Keys to the series
- Shut down Pujols and Holliday
- If one of these two gets hot, they can beat you on their own. Pitching around one will force you to pitch to the other, so approaching the situation rationally is the only possible mindset.
- As always, make the pitching staff work
- The more a pitcher works, the less bite he has on his off-speed pitches and velocity on his fastball. If the Braves learned anything from last Saturday’s game against Tim Lincecum, it’s they can be patient against a nasty pitcher, and Carpenter brings a plethora of good pitches, despite his 0-2 record.
- Continue to be aggressive and set the table for the rest of the offense
- Prado and Heyward did a great job setting the table for the middle of the order after the first four games in L.A., and if the Braves look to head into May with any momentum, these two will need to continue to produce.
Notes: With his RBI-groundout in Wednesday’s finale, Chipper took sole possession of second place in the RBI department among switch hitters. It was his 1,510 RBI of his career. Before the game was over, he upped that total to 1,512.. David Ross first home run of his career was hit off Mark Grace .. McCann’s double in the finale was his first double of the season and third extra base hit of the year .. After drawing 13 walks in the series in San Francisco, the Braves did not draw a single walk in the 13-inning game Monday.. The Braves have played more road games than any other team in MLB (17) and are 9-8 in those games..