A day after hail storms and attempting to weather the tempest of Tommy Hanson’s inability to find the strike zone or miss bats, Tim Hudson closed out the opening series of the year with the type of performance that won him the comeback player of the year in the National League in 2010.
Huddy was absolutely nails for seven innings while throwing 65% of his pitches for strikes and pitching to contact the entire day. Even in the first series of the season, it was good to see Hudson unafraid to find the bats of the Nationals players when they were in the lower half of the strike zone. Hudson’s control was stellar all game long. He went after hitters instead of trying to nibble the strike zone (like it appeared Hanson did the day before) and trusted his fielders to play defense.
Aside from Tim’s pitching performance, the big deal of the day was the first high scoring game for the Braves. Seven of the nine RBI came with two outs in an inning and the big six-run eighth put the game away for the Braves. McCann was the best hitter of the day with a 3-for-5 performance and driving in runs with two outs in three separate innings (first, seventh and eighth).
The Braves weren’t able to break the game open late into the game, primarily because of Jordan Zimmerman’s performance for Washington. Much like John Lannan the day before, Zimmerman didn’t make a lot of mistakes and trusted his defense to make outs. While the line you’ll hear for much of the season on poor batting days will be that the Braves “really hit the ball hard,” this actually seemed to be the case for this team when they were facing Zimmerman.
Once he was out of the game, Atlanta feasted on the Nationals’ bullpen. Before Storen pitched a flawless ninth inning, the Nats pen gave up eight runs on eight hits and three walks in just two innings of work. Coffee, Slaten, Broderick and Gaudin combined to throw just 52% of their pitches for strikes. The Braves patience at the plate forced pitches into the zone that they could hammer in the later innings and they took advantage of it.
Big difference between Saturday’s loss and Sunday’s win happened with runners in scoring position. Despite 10 hits in Saturday’s game, the Braves only got at-bats with a runner into scoring position six times and only got a hit in one of those at-bats. Sunday, they were 6-for-13 with RISP with Heyward, Chipper, McLouth and McCann all driving runs in.
The series wrapped up with the Braves taking two of the three games and seeing a strong showing from the entire pitching staff throughout the opening three games. The staff finished the series with a 2.42 ERA, .209 batting average against and giving up an OBP of just .288 in the three games.