Kawakami pleased with performance on split-squad Sunday
While working primarily on the two-seamer that has drawn his primary focus throughout Spring Training, Kenshin Kawakami was cruising along before experiencing a misfortune-filled fourth inning that forced him to stare at a rather ugly line on Sunday afternoon.
Kawakami’s line read: 3.2 IP, 8 hits, 6 runs, 3 earned runs, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts. But what Braves manager Bobby Cox saw was a successful tuneup for the regular season.
“For me, he had one of his best days ever,” Cox said. “I don’t know how you explain errors, broken bats and groundball base hits. There was one hard-hit ball and that was a groundball. I thought he had a great day.”
While Cox has been known to attempt to cover bad performances by feeding the media with surprise of a complimentary evaluation, there certainly wasn’t any reason for him to be too concerned about this outing.
A pair of two-out doubles by Kaz Matsui and Carlos Lee led to a pair of Astros runs in the third inning. The six-run fourth inning produced by Houston started with Braves third baseman Donell Linares allowing Pedro Feliz’s grounder to slip under his glove.
Linares’ error was compounded when Tommy Manzella followed with a bunt single. Another single loaded the bases before Michael Bourn delivered a two-run single. Kawakami then uncorked a wild pitch that set the stage for his day to end with an RBI groundout off Matsui’s bat.
“The results weren’t good, but I thought I pitched well,” said Kawakami, who has allowed 13 hits and five earned runs in the 8 2/3 innings he has pitched during the Grapefruit League season.
Manny Acosta couldn’t share this same sense of optimism. By the time he had thrown his sixth pitch of the fourth inning, the right-handed reliever had surrendered a two-run homer to Hunter Pence and a Carlos Lee solo shot that might have traveled a mile had it not been hit into the wind.
While this group of Braves were suffering an 8-5 loss to the Astros, the Jason Heyward Braves were constructing an 8-5 win over the Blue Jays in Dunedin.
Heyward began his two-double performance by drilling the first pitch he saw from Brandon Morrow into the right-center field gap. The 20-year-old outfielder, who had recorded just one unofficial at-bat (during Friday’s rainout against the Pirates) since Tuesday night, is hitting .444 (8-for-18) with a .600 on-base percentage that has been aided by the six walks he’s drawn in 25 plate appearances.
Before Sunday’s game, Chipper Jones mentioned that Freddie Freeman was swinging the bat better than his stats might indicate. A short time later across the state, Freeman completed a three-hit performance that improved his batting average to .350 (7-for-20).
Roster battle: Brooks Conrad improved his odds of earning the final available roster spot for a position player by going 1-for-2 against the Astros and producing his third spectacular defensive play of the week behind the second base bag. His chief competition Joe Thurston went 1-for-4 with a homer in the game against the Blue Jays.
McCann’s blasts: Brian McCann began the 2009 season by homering in his first at-bat against Brett Myers, who was then with the Phillies. The Braves catcher again victimized Myers on Sunday by sending his first homer of this exhibition season over the right center field wall.
As impressive as McCann’s second-inning shot was, it paled in comparison to the one he hit in the fifth inning against Astros right-hander Tim Byrdak. This no-doubt blast found its way into the small pond located beyond the right field wall at Osceola County Stadium.
Notes: Nate McLouth struck out in his last two at-bats against the Astros and is now hitting .045 (1-for-22) with 10 strikeouts… With starters (all but Jair Jurrjens) now scheduled to work at least four innings, there are a limited number of innings available for all of the pitchers in camp. So expect to see a number of young pitchers included in the first round of cuts that will be announced on Monday…James Parr surrendered five runs during his first inning against the Blue Jays and then found himself credited with a win after holding them scoreless during his next two innings…Omar Infante’s three-hit game against the Astros improved his batting average to .250 (5-for-20).