Every pitch counts
When you dissect the progression of a baseball season, you can lead yourself to believe that every pitch has the potential to produce consequences that extend beyond the game during which it was thrown.
Had plate umpire Bill Hohn called a strike on the 0-2 fastball that Eric O’Flaherty threw during Sunday afternoon’s game at Fenway Park, J.D. Drew wouldn’t have had the opportunity to deliver the next pitch off the Green Monster for a one-out, go-ahead RBI single.
The Braves believe Hohn’s call cost them that series finale against the Red Sox. Extending this arguable belief, did this call also deny them the opportunity to carry a four-game winning streak into tonight’s series finale against the Yankees?
If Drew had been called out on strikes, with first base open, two outs and left-handed slugger David Ortiz on deck, Cox said that he still would have called upon Peter Moylan to face the right-handed hitting Kevin Youkilis.
But had first base umpire first base umpire Tim Welke not ruled in Jake Fox’s favor on a bang-bang play with two outs in the seventh inning of Monday night’s win over the Cubs, Cox wouldn’t have needed to replace Javier Vazquez with Moylan, who needed just two pitches to end that threat and his evening.
After needing 14 pitches to erase Tommy Hanson’s potential sixth-inning damage and toss a perfect seventh inning during Tuesday night’s win over the Yankees, Moylan was given a night to rest.
Thus he was unavailable when Alex Rodriguez came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s game. Had the Braves gotten the desired ruling from Welke, there’s seemingly reason to believe that the Aussie would have been the one facing A-Rod.
Instead, the Braves were forced to call upon Jeff Bennett, who allowed A-Rod to halt a 1-for-24 skid with a two-run single that gave the Yankees a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
There’s no guarantee that Moylan wouldn’t have allowed A-Rod to deliver the clutch hit. But they certainly likely would have had the option to stay away from Bennett, who opted to challenge the veteran third baseman with four consecutive fastballs before seeing his 0-2 delivery deposited into center field.
Bennett, who was the one who surrendered Nick Green’s walk-off shot on Sunday, was inching closer toward ending his days in Atlanta. But he’s at least bought himself some time with the fractured left hand he suffered when he punched a door after Wednesday’s sixth inning.
When you’ve seen opponents hit .316 against you in 33 appearances and .295 with runners in scoring position, there seemingly must come a time when you’re the one who wants to do some hitting. All indications are that the defenseless door simply suffered a bruise similar to the one on Kenshin Kawakami’s neck.
Kawakami, who was hit on the right side of his neck with a Joba Chamberlain line drive on Wednesday night, reported that he was feeling better than expected on Thursday. Still with an offday on Monday, the Braves will likely skip his next turn in the rotation and allow him to make his next start during the July 4 game in Washington D.C.
Tonight’s lineup: With left-hander Andy Pettitte starting tonight’s series finale for the Yankees, Cox opted to keep Garret Anderson’s hot bat in the lineup. But he did stick with his second base platoon with the insertion of Martin Prado, who is batting second.
Yunel Escobar, who leads the club with 36 RBIs, is batting in the fifth spot. Escobar is hitting .385 (25-for-65) with runners in scoring position.